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The Highway Rat by J. Donaldson

Donaldson, Julia. The Highway Rat. Illus. Axel Scheffler. New York: Arthur A. Levine Books, 2013. Print.

The children’s literature dream team of author Julia Donaldson and illustrator Axel Scheffler are at it again with this delightful take on Alfred Noyes’ classic narrative poem, “The Highwayman.” Donaldson and Scheffler, best known for their popular Gruffalo series as well as Room on the Broom, have created a lush narrative replete with repetitive phrases and rich illustrations that will captivate children while engaging the adult reader in an intelligent manner.

“The Highway Rat was a baddie; the Highway Rat was a beast. He took what he wanted and ate what he took…” Indeed!  The Highway Rat holds up fellow travelers and those he meets along the way with a voracious attitude and pointy sword.  Though he prefers sweets, he takes anything –even a bunch of clover deemed tasteless and dull –to satisfy his greed and without a morsel of regret. As the other creatures along the road grew thinner and thinner, the Highway Rat grows plump until one plucky duck delivers poetic justice and some just ‘desserts’ to this nasty rat. Children will be pleased with the appropriate comeuppance for the Highway Rat that arrives with a healthy message of kindness and sharing.

Fans of Donaldson and Scheffler’s previous work will not be disappointed, in particular those who have encountered “The Highwayman” as younger readers.  This rollicking book will make a nice addition to any elementary school library collection and is best suited for students in K-3.

Highly recommended: 4 out of 4 stars
Reviewer: Debbie Feisst

Debbie is a Public Services Librarian at the H.T. Coutts Education Library at the University of Alberta.  When not renovating, she enjoys travel, fitness and young adult fiction.