Elementary: Great For All

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Malcolm at Midnight

W. H. Beck









“A lot happens in a school when the teachers aren’t looking.” 

So closes an anonymous letter left for Mr. Binney, fifth grade teacher at McKenna School. The letter is attached to a manuscript that tells a remarkable story of Malcolm and his noble quest to protect the school from the evil plan of Snip, a vengeful cat who stalks the abandoned fourth floor.  

Malcolm holds a job familiar to readers of children’s literature, class pet. But, he is a class pet with a mistaken identity. His class thinks he is a mouse, though he is in fact a smallish rat. After learning the negative view that many hold of rats (rat fink, scuzzy rat, etc.), he plays along with the mouse ruse. He hides his true identity until he realizes that his essential “rattiness” is just what he needs to vanquish Snip.  

Malcolm joins the Midnight Academy, “the ears, eyes, nose, and whiskers of the school.” The Academy members are led by an eyeglass wearing iguana named Aggy Pop, and include a scowling rabbit ironically named Honey Bunny, hamsters named after famous outlaws, Octavius the typing tarantula, and many more. They pledge “to keep the halls of McKenna School safe through thick and thin as only critters can do,” looking after both the “nutters” (kids) and “lankies” (adults).  

The Academy members are not enough to foil Snip. For that monumental task, Malcolm enlists the additional help of two students, an owl, and even an wild rat with less than pure intentions. Students will marvel at the ingenious way Malcolm communicates with the human students and the quick thinking that keeps him from being the owl’s snack.  

Malcolm at Midnight is a book with a big cast of unique characters, and a plot that takes plenty unexpected twists and turns. The detailed illustrations by Brian Lies will enchant families as they make their way through the tale, cheering for Malcolm as he proves that he truly is “a rat of valor and merit.”