The Newbery winner in 2004, this was a sweet book. It frustrated me that at the beginning several references are made to mice not talking to humans, but then no one is really terribly surprised when the mice talk, and the rats clearly talk to humans all the time in the prisons. At first I couldn’t decide if I thought the writing style was too twee, but in the end I decided to like it. It’s been several years since I read Olive’s Ocean, but I’m not sure that I would have picked this book over that one. I remember several painful scenes that were so real in their awkwardness, and the moving scene where she realizes the world will go on without her if she dies, and so on. But I think years from now this book will just be “oh, that sweet adventure story”
There was a certain amount of craft evident in the theme of light and darkness and that you need the darkness to emphasize the light, a theme that ran throughout the story and was even evident in the name of the Rat Chiaroscuro. The book was clearly written in the style of a fairy tale/folk story, so if some of the characters were a little flat, then I accept that as part of the genre. I did really like the book, I simply wasn’t as wowed as I’d expected to be given how many people had praised it.