“'There's cold chicken inside it,' replied the Rat briefly; 'coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrench

'O stop, stop,' cried the Mole in ecstacies: 'This is too much!'”
-- from
The Wind in the Willows

Monday, August 4, 2008

Bad Rats • Picture Book with Audio CD

Bad Rats
By Eric Drachman • Illustrated by James Muscarello
Just out! • Kidwick Books • Picture Book with Audio CD
Follow along as Josiah and several other inspired rats teach their professor the value of creativity.
Story: Josiah was a rat. He was a bad rat..... or so he was told. In fact, Josiah and his friends are aspiring artists, and for a rat, painting outside the box like that just won't do.
Story behind the story: Narrated by the author and featuring his young nephew among other voices, the companion book-on-CD includes audible page turns to help children follow along as they learn to read. Hear what author Eric Drachman has to say about creating Bad Rats in this podcast with Ingram Library Services and in this interview with California Readers. Also, check out the Bad Rats audio slideshow to see and hear the book in its entirety, for free (and feel free to link your site/blog/newsletter to the show so your readers can see and hear it too!).

FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent; please click on the "comments" link below to read what your colleagues have to say about it and be sure to come back as there are more to come!


Lane Voss, Manager - Children's Dept. said...

Rats have a bad reputation. They can have rabies. They were responsible for the Black Plague. BUT, these Rats are exceptional Rats. They are gifted artists…singers, dancers, & painters, who have been sent to Professor Perimeter to learn how to survive in the Rat world. They are Bad Rats because they follow their hearts not their minds.

One look at the cover and I immediately started reading Bad Rats aloud to my fellow librarian; we fell in love with Bad Rats and have agreed that the first group of elementary kids who visit us will listen to Bad Rats. What a joy to read and share!
-- Lana Voss, Manager – Children’s Dept., Tulsa City-County Library System, Tulsa, OK

Beckyb said...

I posted my review here.

Great read - well worth your time and money for your collections!

Becky Bilby, Youth Services Librarian, Orange City Public Library, Orange City, IA

Jennifer Samec said...

I am already a fan of using Eric Drachman's books in my Media Center, so I was excited to read and listen to Bad Rats. Like characters in his other books, the young characters in this book struggle with being different from what they are "supposed" to be. In the end, they learn that being different is good - if not exceptional!

I tested this out on a 5 and 8 year old audience. They immediately took a strong dislike to Professor Perimiter and were delighted when Josiah, Priscilla, and Sarah expressed themselves through their art, music, and dance.

This book is certainly best experienced in its audio form as the sound effects and music add much more to the story than I could as a reader. I would recommend skipping the first track on the CD for the initial reading, however. With no knowledge of who Professor Perimeter was, my listeners were a bit confused with the introductory conversation.

I absolutely love that the entire book is online. I use Drachman's books to reinforce with my Kindergarten students that an audio book can be a great way to read a book even if they can't read the words. It makes for a somewhat awkward read-aloud when I hold the book up and we all listen to the CD. I am certainly going to use the slide show version of Bad Rats with my students. Plus, it will be great to be able to send home the web address with them so they can all read it at home that night.

-Jennifer Samec, Media Specialist
Birchview Elementary School, Plymouth, MN

Beckyb said...

Kidwick Books has a new book out - Bad Rats - by Eric Drachman and illustrated by James Muscarello. I really liked this story - at first I was thinking - where are they going with this? But once I got about halfway through - I loved the whole idea - those that may be a bit different than us are not BAD - they may even be exceptional!! Such a great idea - and teaches kids to be careful before they label others. This is really a neat story and the read-along CD is such a great idea. AND don't miss this!! Kidwick has a great idea - you can go online and hear all of their books for free!! What a super way to enjoy books and SO nice for parents and teachers.

Sam Maskell, Youth Services Librarian said...

Determined to paint, dance, sing, and think with their hearts, Josiah and a few other young rats are in trouble. They are “bad rats”, sent to sit on the learning curb and await Professor Perimeter who is determined to make them into good rats that scurry, hide, and think with their minds. However, the determination and inspirational, creative spirit of these bad rats finally convinces the teacher and class alike that true art has no rules and that there is always a place for creativity.

The charming illustrations reflect the creative nature of the story. Each young rat is slightly faded, yet wearing some bright color (a scarf, a skirt, splotches of paint) to represent their interest. The Professor’s coloring remains bland until he rediscovers his own creative side and then his browns are browner and his yellow bright. The illustrated rats are full of expression and character.

The audio CD that accompanies this book is a treat. The voices and original musical score are perfectly suited to the characters and bring the story to life.

This book would make a fantastic addition to any picture book collection and could easily be presented as a storytime read-aloud. (#4 – Recommend without reservation)

Susan Mello said...

I just finished reading and more importantly listening to Bad Rats by Eric Drachman. The quality of the audio portion is amazing. I have listened to many books, this recording truly adds to the story.
The concept of the story will help children to see that everyone may be different but special.
I am glad that the professor eventually comes around. Otherwise he would have become a villain in the readers' minds.
I would give this a 4.5 rating. The reason I take off half a point is that the story comes across a little didactic and rushed. I know there is not much time to develop characters in a picture book. That is what makes the audio portion so great...it offers context and back story to help understand the story.
I will definitely share this book with my library students!

PLLoggerR said...

Eric Drachman's book Bad Rats is the story of what happens when we label creatures (whether rats or people) rather than allowing differences to shine through. Thoreau said it best - "If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer." Perhaps Bad Rats, and the wonderful CD that comes with it, will inspire all of us to remember that time when we, too, marched to our own drummer. Then we must encourage our younger readers to also follow their dreams and respect others for theirs. Perhaps then we will learn to stop labelling others as "bad rats." Thank you Eric Drachman for providing a well illustrated (by James Muscarello) and beautifully read story to use in this endeavour.

A definte pick for my picnic basket (though I'd set my CD player to just play the 2nd track).

Becky, rural library Co-Director

Anonymous said...

Rats are not usually considered adorable, but Priscilla and Josiah are very adorable. But being adorable is not usually in a rat’s job description. Neither is singing and drawing, which Priscilla and Josiah do extremely well. As Professor Perimeter attempts to teach these "bad rats" how to be good rats his students in turn have a quiet influence on him.

The story line is not new. Being different does not make a person, or even a rat, bad, just different. The movie Ratatouille is a good example, even though eating food prepared by rats is still somewhat disturbing.

The charcoal and watercolor illustrations are well done. The CD does not add anything noticeable to the book. The sound of pages turning is too soft to be useful.

This will make a useful addition to storytimes about rats or gifts or self-esteem.

Deborah Vaden, Manager--Irving Public Library, Irving, Texas

Kristen said...

This story of expression and strength has you once again, rooting for the underdog - or rat as you will.

Josiah's fight to stay true to himself is a consistent theme in childrens' books. Drachman's version involves 'pushing Perimeter'.

Drachman writes for the young and old, illustrates with intensity, and reads with enormous enthusiasm. My 3 and 5 year olds (yeah, librarian's children) fell in love with the rats and compared Josiah to Katy Duck!

I , too, will use the slide show and audio with our storytime. Kidwick has successfully married technology and books!

Looking forward to more!

Cary Meltzer, Children's Room Director said...

Overall Rating: 3

Bad Rats starts out as one of those delicious books that are a perfect blend of text and illustration. Drachman does an excellent job of using mostly dialogue to develop his storyline and characters. Muscarello’s masterful use of simple line work and subdued washes bring each character’s personality to life. The audio version adds yet another dimension by perfectly matching voice to personality. You love these creative youngsters. You want the professor to see that there is more to life than mere survival. The story flows along like water, and then, Drachman cheats us. Professor Perimeter sees the light, but all in a rush. How can this straight and narrow, by the book personality be so easily swayed by a little song and dance? Worse yet, as he dances off into the sunrise, we’re given no clue as to what happens to our little paint be-spattered Josiah. I would definitely like to see more from this author illustrator pair, but with a more fully developed storyline.

One additional note: the page turn signals on the CD are barely audible.

Cary Meltzer
Children’s Room Director
Utica Public Library

debnance said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
debnance said...

Why is it that artists and writers and dancers and thinkers are always persecuted?

Bad rats are such creative sorts and the five of them have been sent to the curb for retraining.

When the bad rats express their feelings through art, their teacher realizes the bad rats have been falsely labeled.

Bad Rats could be used with readers from kindergarten to adulthood. It is a perfect read aloud for older elementary students and would work well as a writing prompt.

Debbie Nance
Stevenson Primary School

Jacquie said...

I liked Bad Rats. I was Josiah once upon a time and I had a friend who was Priscilla. My friend had to run away from our place of childhood so that she could "sing" but I was inspired to become a teacher who would welcome and encourage imaginative thinkers and doers.

I found the story of not just Josiah and Priscilla but the Professor's to be one I could find my own story in and that's good storytelling. I love a transformation that's one so many can relate to and here we have it. I plan to use Bad Rats as a teaching text for showing just that. The illustrations are simple and add just the right touch to a picture book experience with a message such as this one...

Jacquie Leighton
English and Language Arts teacher
Hancock, Maine

Claire Touseau said...

For years rats have gotten the short end of the stick. Not anymore! I fell in love with the tiny rats on the cover as soon as I saw them. They are obviously in fear of the rather scary looking figure looming above them. As I read further I sympathized with the young rats as they struggled to understand why their professor thought they were in fact, bad. All they really wanted was to be accepted and celebrated for their unique talents. Isn't that what everyone desires? I wondered if the author purposely chose the name of the professor as a clever play on words. We teach our 4th graders that perimeter means the outside edge of a figure. In the story Professor Perimeter does not want any of the rats in his class to "think outside the box". I was relieved to read that by the end he learned from his students. That is something I want to do often in my own class. I plan to use this book as a read aloud at the beginning of the school year. I hope it starts a discussion about the importance of keeping an openmind about those around us.

heidi said...

Eric Drachman’s Bad Rats is a story of what is necessary to survive from two different points of view. The stern Professor Perimeter teaches what is necessary to just be alive and breathing from day to day. One shouldn’t take chances or test fate. One should do what all others have always done to exist because it works. “You must stay close to walls….Look down at the ground in front of you and don’t let your eyes wander…..you will NOT call attention to yourselves.” In doing so, “You will learn to be good rats.” Young Josiah feels that the professor’s way is just an existence, not really living. He questions, “Why are we bad?” The professor responds, “…..because you follow your heart and not your mind. Our minds make things neat and our hearts make things messy.” The “bad rats” then become the teachers; reminding Perimeter of the things in life that make it worth living, like colors and music and dance. In an era of standardized tests and academic rigor squeezing the creativity out of our best thinkers, Bad Rats is a book that finally gives permission to be creative and appreciate the beautiful things; that these things are what is truly important. Our Gifted/Talented teacher was immediately drawn to this book by the beautiful, touching illustrations, and then touched by the validation of creativity. I think this book will speak to all who see themselves as different and those searching for hope in education….let us color and sing and dance and we’ll learn our academics even better with the life-giving sustenance of creativity! I absolutely loved this book. The accompanying CD was delightful, with music that reminds of scurrying rats. I was thinking I’d rate this book a 4, but now that I’ve talked through it in this review, I’m moved to rate it a 5!
Librarian, MGMS, Clifton, CO

Andrea said...

“Good evening and thank you for coming we are all bad rats” begins the audio CD that accompanies this picture book. Although the story can be enjoyed without the CD it enhances the story by bringing to life each rats individual talent and uniqueness. The illustrations are mostly black and white with a hint of color in appropriate pictures to bring out the individuality of the rats. In the end we find out that we are not all bad rats but exceptional rats.

Rating: 4
Recommend without Reservation

Andrea L. Pavlik
Youth & Parent Services Librarian
Huntington Public Library
Huntington, NY 11743

Susan O'Connell said...

Soft illustrations with just a few splashes of color draw the reader in, and the endearing rats are easy to identify with. As the "bad rats" of the title are supposed to learn to stifle their artistic impulses in order to survive in a dangerous world, their teacher re-learns what it is like to dream and behold beauty. His change of heart sends a sweet message that it is important to be different and to nurture your artitic side. What I found lacking was a proper solution to the initial reason these rats were told to be more "rat-like" in the first place- it is a dangerous world. The story would have been more believeable if the inital problem of a dangerous world had not been left hanging. Instead one could interpret this book to be saying that art may kill you, but it is worth the risk.
That said, the story is sweet, the illustrations endearing, and the audio CD brings the story alive. The online version is a nice tie-in to introduce young children to online books. I would rate this book as a 4.

Lori said...

Bad Rats by Eric Drachman
Kidwick Books

Rating: 4

I loved this book, and the audio is amazingly well done. I think, though, I would only use the second track. The other two would be a little confusing for the children.

The story of Josiah sends a wonderful message of keeping the color and creativity in your life.

I teach middle school, but I am always looking for great children's literature to use with my class and to share with our kindergarten buddies. I love to use children's books to help my students understand story elements and theme. I plan to use this book with my seventh graders as well as our K-5 friends!

Lori Stolaski
St. Thomas Aquinas Academy
Milwaukee, WI

Angie said...

Bad Rats is adorable. I love the recording--it adds so much to the story experience. I love the pictures. Who would have dreamed that rats could be so cute? I am going to share this with our art coordinator as a perfect example of using color to create mood. I love that the slideshow is online--the story can be shared with every child in the class and no one has to wait until a copy is available. I love the premise ... it's OK to be different and to see beauty in the world.

I only wish that maybe we'd learned a little more about the Professor and what first changed him from a rat that appreciated the color of a summer leaf to a hardened professor. Luckily he had Priscilla, Josiah, and the others to help change him back.

Recommend without reservation. My students and I will be picknicking with this story next week!

Angie O.
Teacher Librarian
San Antonio, TX

Gail said...

Sometimes rats (and people!) don't do what they're supposed to, which can lead to being labeled "bad" or "dreamy" or "noisy." And no matter how we try to shove them into line, their individual natures come busting out to make the world more complicated and beautiful. This book is an appealing way to let kids know that their uniqueness is important: the illustrations are wonderful. The audiobook is a definite keeper! My children have been listening to it over and over. The voice characterizations are engaging, and Priscilla's song is lovely.

I'd give this a solid 4.

Anonymous said...

I found this title to be inconsistent and confusing.

Rat school is held in an alley under a street light. This isn’t the safest place for rats to be and it contradicts Perimeter’s lessons.

After pages and pages of telling the rats how “bad” they are and attempting to teach them safety techniques, Perimeter changes quite quickly into an understanding soul and wanders off into the sunrise. Now, those safety techniques are important – whether you are an artist, singer, dancer or teacher. I would have liked to see Perimeter start a new class, perhaps one that would teach the exceptional rats how to be creative and safe at the same time. Or some other ending with a little more to it.

Picnic rating: 2

Children's Librarian

Lydia K said...

I just finished reading "Bad Rats" to my four year old son. At first I wasn't sure the direction the book was taking but as we got into the characters the author's purpose became evident. The message that being different with our talents, abilities and visions isn't a "bad" thing - it's what makes us unique and allows us to appreciate the diversity in our world.

I loved reading "Bad Rats" and plan on using it not only with my son's classes but as a character education lesson with my middle school students as well.

Deborah said...

The bad rats are cute and the soft illustrations balance out the initially hard professor Rat. Many lessons are learned, from the value of expressing yourself to the realization that grown-ups-even teachers sometimes forget and are always still learning as well.Young listeners may sit still longer for this book when listening to the well done accompanying audio cd. Older readers may relate with and even chuckle at the "school" experience. Many teachers and parents may find the online audio slideshow valuable.
Overall - very nicely done
Strong 4

angelam said...

I just finished reading Bad Rats by Eric Drachman to my four year old. I found the story hard and confusing for my young audience to understand. The illustrations are beautiful and the rats are endearing. The audio cd helped immensely to bring the characters to life and aid in understanding. I think an older audience would benefit more from the book and its’ concepts. I plan on using the book with my middle school students for a lesson on character. The concept of keeping one’s individuality and creatively would resonate well with an older, go with the flow audience.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the "this book might best be used with older children". I have used books similar to this one with 4-5th graders and they love the fine lesson with wonderful illustrations.

Mrs. Kondrick said...

This book is beautifully illustrated. the subtle colors add to the magnificent drawings of rats I would love to take home with me (how is that for an image!) I played the CD aloud for my 7th and 8th graders as I showed them the book. Each day I read aloud to them and give them 10 minutes to respond either critically or creatively. most days they just summarize the book, no matter how I try to encourage them. They where inspired by this book! The writing I received was touching and reflective. I as other reviews believe the CD was instrumental in eliciting this in-depth response. I am sure the book would hold its own alone, but the voices on the CD are amazing.

A definite 5!

Karen Kondrick
Literacy Coach/ Middle School Reading
Ripley, NY

mariehune said...

Bad Rats...what kind of rats are Bad Rats? Not furtive enough, not skulking enough. So says Professor Perimeter. But, in this encouraging tale, the Bad Rats,, who dance and sing and paint, soon show the professor that following your heart is as important as following your head. The engaging illustrations and the clear story line make this an inspiring story for all ages

Anonymous said...

Lovely book, but I felt the grade level was a little young for some of the verbage. It gives a good message and the art work is very appealing, but again to an older level. I liked the idea of having the CD to go along with the written book for those students who have difficulty reading and need to hear the words.

Kim Evans - Grade 1 - Highroad Academy said...

I was so excited to receive the book Bad Rats and immediately read it to my Grade 1 class. The book is beautifully illustrated and the children loved the voices on the audio cd. The story has a great message that is appropriate for all age groups. With help, my Grade 1s were able to pick apart the message and discuss the fact that everyone is born with different talents and gifts. Bad Rats led to a great discussion on how each person is born unique and there are no two people who are the same. I think that Bad Rats is a great book to have in your school library. It was a pleasure to read it!
- Kim Evans - Grade 1 - Highroad Academy

Lisa S said...

This book is a great read, my students truly enjoyed it. I like how interestingly it portrayed rats... a typically dirty gross critter :) takes on human like traits, and clean positive ones at that!
It was inspirational in the "you can teach an old dog new tricks" way, and allowed students to think about being whatever they desired.
This book is a definite picnic basket 5

Anonymous said...

After sharing the audio CD of Bad Rats by Eric Drachman with a group of elementary students, I thought I'd post their comments this time instead of my own, as they are the ultimate reviewers. Students' main comments revolved around the lack of color in the illustrations and the feeling of sadness they felt throughout the book. Yet this title really worked for the youngsters as they cheered at the end! Students got it and we were able to discuss acceptance and differences. This book would be a great addition to many curriculum topics such as acceptance, individuality, careers, community, art, and so forth.

californiadreaming said...

Bad Rats is a book that is both entertaining and thought provoking. The audio was enjoyed by the students I played it for, and is an excellent tool for those who are at a lower reading level to follow along with the text. I also found that the narration was so interesting that it motivated the children to add so much of their own inflection when later reading the book out loud. The students also took some important ideas from the book, such as, everyone is special in their own way, and being different doesn't make them bad (or less valuable in society). They also commented to me that they enjoyed the fact that the professor/teacher was not always "right" and that he learned something important from the young little rats.

I absolutely LOVED the books illustrations but was curious how it would be enjoyed by children with it's muted colors. To my surprise, they loved it, too, and commented on how cute the rats were. For our students that are learning basic drawing techniques and shading, the book offered a wealth of beautiful examples of how detail and mood can be infused into a drawing. The illustrations in the book were as powerful in bringing the story alive as the audio -just two different mediums available for students with different learning styles or interests. This variety is very valuable, as teachers work so diligently to make learning interesting for all of their students! I would definitely recommend this book and will now look for other titles by Kidwick Books.

Teaching Assistant
Highroad Academy

Barbara said...

I liked listening to the story on CD. Other voices are always a treat and add so much to the story! The idea of Josiah the rat being "bad" because he did not fit the "rat mold" is a classic and grabbing theme. At first, I thought it was a little too predictable and preachy, but I found myself being "sucked in" by the end of the story. Although I have not yet read it in my story time, I'm sure my older pre-schoolers will find it to be an interesting and engaging story.

A. Hunt said...

I am so sorry that I did not comment earlier after wrestling the book and accompanying audio away from our secretary. She loved it and as you know, you do not mess with the school secretary!

Bad Rats is a delightful book and the audio is fantastic. I also highly recommend the audio slide show online. The analogy of "Professor Perimeter" and what we sometimes do to our children by giving them so many dos and don'ts that it is great to be reminded to embrace the creativity and song.

I plan on using it in class to encourage my students' creative writing pieces as well as to embolden them to reach for the stars.

4.5 out of 5

A. Hunt
Language Arts Teacher
Fort Walton Beach, FL