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Book Review: The Highway Rat By Julia Donaldson, Illus. By Axel Scheffler

Hide your goodies!

The Highway Rat is lying in wait for your delicious snacks and treats.

Although he prefers pastries and chocolate and cake, he’ll take anything you have. For as he says, “I am the Rat of the Highway – the Highway – the Highway. Yes I am the Rat of the Highway, and whatever I want I take.”

He steals clover from a passing rabbit. He steals nuts from a frightened squirrel. He even steals hay from his own horse. But when a duck passes by with no snacks, the Highway Rat threatens to eat the duck! What can a helpless fowl do against this fowl highway thief?

In this variation of the brain vs. brawn theme, Julia Donaldson gives kids a charming story of a duck with pluck. With rhyming text and Rat’s trademark refrain, the story flows rhythmically along. Children, who have so little autonomy in their own life, will relate with the woodland animals who are bullied by the larger, meaner rodent.

They will surely rejoice when that rodent gets his comeuppance in the end! Axel Scheffler does a nice job of conveying the animals’ emotions of fear and jubilation throughout. The bright colors and sparse backgrounds really focus attention on the characters. And for those who wish to take more than their fair share, The Highway Rat is a cautionary tale to remind them that greed will always bring about their own downfall.

Read more book reviews by Brian Rock, a children’s writer and award winning songwriter.