Thursday, February 7, 2013
Malcolm at Midnight, by W.H. Beck
"Never speak to humans" is one of the Midnight Academy rules, but Malcolm can't help but love Amelia, the 5th grade "nutter" (the animals' term for the kids) with whom he spends the most time and who guesses least some of his abilities with communication. Some of the other nutters, and even a few lankies (adults), aren't so bad either, so when it turns out that there really IS something to protect the school from, Malcolm is determined to take action. "Action" means saving the kids from the the wicked animal on the fourth floor, an abandoned cat they call Snip who wears a too-tight collar and schemes to poison the school's water supply at the biggest event of the school year. It also means having to do what he can from outside the Midnight Academy, since Aggy the iguana has also turned up missing, and the rest of the animals, having learned that Malcolm is a rat, expect he's at the bottom of it.
All of the characters, human and animal, are well drawn, and even Snip's backstory is so sad that it makes her villainy heart-wrenching. I kept wanting to gather her up and make a nice kitty-cat out of her again, but I also found in her story a reminder that if we choose to "go bad" due to pain in our past lives, it is indeed our choice.
Some of the specific action in Snip's plot I found to be a little farfetched for even a personified animal, but all in all this is an engrossing story with excellent characters and an inspiring valuation of "valor and merit." Highly recommended -- also keep this book in mind for a younger child who is reading beyond grade level but maybe isn't ready for a lot of human emotional angst or near-YA situations.