About the Holiday
Celebrating a new book on its birthday is always exciting. Just like the kids they’re written for, each book has its own personality and take on the world. Today’s book is funny, smart, clever, and educational. Take a look!
This Is a Flying Rat
Written by Andrew Cangelose | Illustrated by Josh Shipley
As a narrator begins a recitation on pigeons, a very vocal pigeon breaks in to extoll the awesomeness of his breed, especially their flying power. “Everyone calls me Ace,” he says, “because I’m one of the best fliers around.” He can’t wait to prove it. “Pigeons are a member of the same bird family as doves. In fact, they are sometimes called ‘rock doves,’” the narrator intones.
Ace is wholeheartedly agreeing that he does, indeed, rock when a raccoon interrupts to point out a flying rat. Ace is offended, but it turns out that the raccoon doesn’t mean him, but the rat with a jet pack spewing pink and blue ink coming their way. Just as the narrator is getting to the good part: “Pigeons are considered some of the best fliers in the world,” the rat crosses out “Pigeons” and writes “Flying rats” in pink ink.
Again, Ace protests, so the rat decides he’ll just be a pigeon too. But Ace isn’t going to let him get away with that that easily. To be a pigeon, the rat has to do other pigeon stuff too. The narrator goes on to describe a pigeon’s eating habits, which can include garbage. The rat is happy to oblige this dietary quirk. Pigeons also have feathers and wings, the narrator reveals. Out of the trash come…you guessed it…check! and check!
Finally, the narrator gets to flying. But thanks to the jet pack, the rat is just as agile and persevering as Ace. The two are just in a race to the top of a skyscraper when the rat’s fuel burns out. Now he’s not so much a flying rat as a falling rat. Down he plummets just as the narrator reveals that pigeons are social flyers—never found alone. Ace gets it and rockets toward the ground, rescuing the rat just before….
The rat is grateful and apologetic for trying to take over the book, and he acknowledges that Ace is the real pigeon. On Ace’s side, he’s warmed up to having a friend while the narrator’s next chilling fact about pigeon predators has Ace considering joining the other side.
Andrew Cangelose’s pitch-perfect mashup of sedate nature programming and laugh-out-loud interruptions is education at its ingenious best. As the rat challenges Ace’s claims to flying glory, kids are the winners, learning facts about pigeons they won’t soon forget. Cangelose has given Ace and the rat distinct personalities and plenty of attitude to keep the giggle’s going. The combination of straightforward narration and dialogue makes the story a joy to read and would even lend itself to turning the text into a classroom play. The resulting friendship between Ace and the rat is a natural outgrowth of pigeons’ flocking behavior and makes a case for pigeons being a bit like humans too.
Josh Shipley feathers the story with urban details as the rat attempts to prove he’s really a pigeon. Ace, with his squared-off head and familiar multihued sheen, is a portrait of pride, indignation, and knowing looks that will delight kids. The rat, clinging to his jet pack, is sure to win over converts with his ever-present smile and bold self-assurance. The appearance of a pompadour-wearing squirrel clutching an armful of garbage will draw lots of laughs. Shipley depicts Ace’s change of heart about the rat with a sweetness that will charm kids.
Humorous creative nonfiction that kids will really respond to, This Is a Flying Rat would be a fun addition to home bookshelves and a high-interest accompaniment to classroom nature and science lessons, making it a great choice for school and public libraries as well.
Ages 4 – 8
Oni Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1620107751