Book Review: Racso and The Rats of NIHM

One of the all-time classic read-alouds for elementary students has to be Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIHM, and you know, it stands up to the test of time. I remember hearing it and I still read it (to my own children, anyway, and all three have loved it). The sequel — Racso and the Rats of NIHM — is by the original author’s daughter (Jane Leslie Conly), and she picks up the energy and interest of the original without missing much of a beat.
In this novel, Timothy the mouse meets a new rat, Racso, as he is heading to school in Thorn Valley, where the rats relocated their colony in the first book. Racso is a city mouse, with a connection to the rats that only comes out later. The book circles around the ways that humans impact the environment — in this case, through the construction of a large dam that will flood the entire valley for a recreational area (and toss in some political corruption, too). Racso is determined to become a “hero,” and joins a group of rats who come up with ingenious plan to destroy the dam on its opening day.

How? They learn how to program computers and become rodent hackers. Really.

These super-smart rats teach themselves computer programming and then hack into the dam’s main computer, sabotage the dam on the opening day and hope that the damage will be so severe that the humans will give up and leave the valley alone. In the book, that does happen. In real life, that would never happen. (reader sarcasm alert)

The story moves along at a good pace, and the smart rats are always interesting to view. Casting humans as the antagonists makes a lot of sense (even my son asked why people would want to harm animals and added “I don’t really like humans right now.”) Racso is an interesting character (with a backstory about his name, which is not Rasco but Racso, which took me about a third of the book to correct, and then my son demanded that the character be called Rasco … until we learn more about his name) who evolves from being being a selfish, self-centered rat to a creature willing to sacrifice for the greater good of others.

And now, we are on to the third and last in the series: RT, Margaret and the Rats of NIHM. This is one (also by the author’s daughter) that I have never read before, so I am not sure what to expect when little kids are rescued by the rat colony and come to live with them in Thorn Valley. It seems like that might be pushing the narrative a bit too much but you never know.

Peace (in the valley),


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