________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 15 . . . . March 16, 2007


The Truth About Rats (And Dogs).

Jacqueline Pearce.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2006.
153 pp., pbk., $8.95.     
ISBN 1-55143-473-3.

Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.

Review by John Dryden.

**½  /4


“What bothers us the most, Conner,” Dad began when I’d finished explaining, “Is that you went behind our backs. You did something you knew we wouldn’t have given permission for.”

“I know,” I said, looking down at the floor. “I shouldn’t have done it, but the others were all allowed...” I knew this wasn’t the right thing to say. I could hear Dad’s intake of breath as he got ready to give the If your friends jumped off a cliff, would you do that to? Lecture.

The Truth About Rats (and Dogs) is a lesson about relationships: the relationship between Conner and his family as well as between Conner and his pet rat. Conner feels trapped in a life of expectations. His parents have him in piano lessons which he does not like and have high expectations of his school work. He knows that he struggles with his school work, and he does not like piano. To add to this pressure, his older sister happens to be good both at school (math specifically) and piano. Conner also enjoys and excels at BMX riding. His parents show little interest in encouraging Conner to pursue BMX trick riding. Conner’s one wish is to have a pet dog. His parents deny this request enough times that he does not talk about it to them anymore ­ until a wild rat appears in the house. Conner seizes the moment to look up dogs that hunt rats in his dog book and attempts to continue the debate. His parents remain adamant. So when the offer to foster a pet rat for two weeks is made to members of his school’s animal club, Conner does not ask his parents and sneaks the rat into the house. Of course, Conner’s action is discovered, and this forces both parents and Conner to face some issues they had hoped to avoid. Conner learns his own lesson as well as he faces changing his expectations upon himself when choosing a pet rat instead of his ultimate hopes of a pet dog.

     The story is above average, the characters are well developed and the plot moves along at a good pace. Humour is added in occasional doses to keep interest in the novel up, and Jacqueline Pearce has included realistic dialogue between the family members. I enjoyed the well-rounded Conner character who played soccer, rode BMX, yet played piano, and joined the school animal club. I wish I could say the story was a surefire hit, but it falls short. Although the characters are realistic and believable, the book never really grips the reader with any particular emotion or plot twists. This book will appeal to pet lovers and students who are looking for a short read.

John Dryden is a teacher-librarian in Duncan, B.C.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.