Rat Rule 79: An Adventure (Yonder, #1)
Fred and her math-teacher mom are always on the move, and Fred is getting sick of it. She’s about to have yet another birthday in a new place without friends. On the eve of turning thirteen, Fred sees something strange in the living room: her mother, dressed for a party, standing in front of an enormous paper lantern—which she steps into and disappears.
Fred follows her and finds herself in the Land of Impossibility—a loopily illogical place where time is outlawed, words carry dire consequences, and her unlikely allies are a depressed white elephant and a pugnacious mongoose mother of seventeen. With her new friends, Fred sets off in search of her mom, braving dungeons, Insult Fish, Fearsome Ferlings, and a mad Rat Queen. To succeed, the trio must find the solution to an ageless riddle.
Gorgeously illustrated and reminiscent of The Phantom Tollbooth and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Rivka Galchen’s Rat Rule 79 is an instant classic for curious readers of all ages.
Fred follows to find herself in the Land of Impossibility, where she first encounters an imprisoned white elephant, Downer, who explains the basics about the Land and its Rat Queen, particularly her many rules and the very important Rat Rule 79, where so many things are outlawed, including birthday parties. As Fred begins her quest to find her mother, she will encounter puzzles, riddles, and all sorts of magnificent and clever creatures.
What I loved: This is a very thoughtful book that presents a lot of ideas in interesting and reflective ways (such as why children must go to bed when they feel less need for sleep but adults, who love sleep, stay up late). The text and characters are completely charming, often taking colloquialisms to the literal (e.g. when people could not talk about the elephant in the room, Downer was ignored for being that elephant). It is very humorous and quite clever that makes it an engaging read, even for adults. The book is also quite unique, as I am not sure I have read anything quite like it.
I also really enjoyed the celebration of childhood, as children are the best thing in the world in the Land of Impossibility. The snippets from Fred with her mother were also marvelous, and some of the puzzles and games quite imaginative.
Final verdict: In the vein of Lemony Snicket, ALICE IN WONDERLAND, and THE WIZARD OF OZ, prepare to be transported to a fascinating, clever, and often comical land along with Fred, as she begins an incredible journey. Highly recommend for middle grade (and all aged) readers who are looking for a book that does not fit any mold.