April 28, 2016
Dirty Rats by Darrin Lunde, illustrated by Adam Gustavson
by Darrin Lunde
illustrated by Adam Gustavson
It probably come as no secret to you — many people hate rats. They try to trap them, poison them and generally do them harm.
For those of you who are willing to learn a thing or twelve about rats, this is an excellent book. Lunde talks about the different types of rats found all over the world including the long-tailed marmoset rat which, like the well-known and much adored panda, eats only bamboo. He also wrote about the bushy-tailed cloud rat which actually has a fluffy tail. If you had just shown me a photo, I would have guessed porcupine. These “little” guys are cute! One of the wild rats he covered is my favorite, the kangaroo rat. Yes, I have a favorite rat.
Lunde also wrote about the many ways that rats are good. He discussed lab rats (poor rats!) and the fact that rats are a vital part of the food chain.
The backmatter included more types of rats. I do wish that the African giant pouched rat had made it into the main text. They’re pretty fantastic too. Also in the back matter was the crested rat which is toxic/poisonous because of a particular kind of plant sap that permeates their fur. Crazy!
I’m a bit of a casual rat nut. I say casual because I’ve never kept rats. My son’s godmother has rats and I know a thing or two thanks to her. I know that even rats who find food in garbage are not dirty. They spend a great deal of time grooming. I wish Lunde had pointed that particular fact out. But this is a picture book and because of the limited number of pages and limited number of words, there is only so much he can say. I get that.
Adam Gustavson’s paintings sometimes reminded me of Mark Teague’s work. I think it has something to do with the people’s faces. Teague illustrated the “How do Dinosaurs” books. Gustavson’s pictures aren’t encyclopedic but they are definitely realistic and his rats truly look like rats. It doesn’t take much imagination to picture one sniffing or scampering off the page.
I would definitely add this one to my bookshelf. It is a great jumping off point for discussions on diversity, urban wildlife and our misconceptions about same.