From the New Yorker “20 Under 40” author of Atmospheric Disturbances comes a brain-twisting adventure story of a girl named Fred on a quest through a world of fantastical creatures, strange logic, and a powerful prejudice against growing up.
Fred and her math-teacher mom are always on the move, and Fred is getting sick of it. She’s about to have yet another birthday in a new place without friends. On the eve of turning thirteen, Fred sees something strange in the living room: her mother, dressed for a party, standing in front of an enormous paper lantern—which she steps into and disappears.
Fred follows her and finds herself in the Land of Impossibility—a loopily illogical place where time is outlawed, words carry dire consequences, and her unlikely allies are a depressed white elephant and a pugnacious mongoose mother of seventeen. With her new friends, Fred sets off in search of her mom, braving dungeons, Insult Fish, Fearsome Ferlings, and a mad Rat Queen. To succeed, the trio must find the solution to an ageless riddle.
Gorgeously illustrated and reminiscent of The Phantom Tollbooth and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Rivka Galchen’s Rat Rule 79 is an instant classic for curious readers of all ages.
Praise for Rat Rule 79
“Rat Rule 79 is the adventure I didn’t know I wanted until it started, just like it’s the book you don’t yet know you’re going to love. We have been waiting for this book our entire lives.”
—Lemony Snicket, author of A Series of Unfortunate Events
“Rat Rule 79 is an impossibly perfect book: a Mobius strip where the love loops continuously between mothers’ daughters and daughters’ mothers, law and disorder, the lost and the found. Fred is a heroine for the ages—a twelve-year old savant of mathematical and emotional truths and a connoisseur of peanut butter and pickle sandwiches, Fred is smart enough to navigate irrational lands, demands, and numbers, and brave enough to love the strangest strangers. Rat Rule 79 belongs on a shelf of classics with The Phantom Tollbooth, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, and The Last Unicorn. How can it be that Galchen's epic, so utterly, enchantingly new, also gave me the happiest deja vu while reading? How can the Dark, Dark Woods be such an illuminating place? These and other paradoxes fill Galchen's astonishing, hilarious, mind-and-heart-expanding book. As I read, I thought, ‘I can't wait to share this with my daughter, son, mother, brother, sister, best friend…’ a number set that eventually swelled to include: everyone.”
—Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia
"I love this book. It’s a wonder. I wish I’d had Rat Rule 79 when I was a boy. I’d have been obsessed with Fred and her adventures and reread her funny sweet story a hundred times, always finding something new.”
—James Gleick, author of The Information and Isaac Newton
“Lewis Carroll, Norton Juster, Tove Jansson, Russell Hoban; like them, Rivka Galchen has written a book for children and adults that occupies its own delightful and preposterous space. Rat Rule 79 feels like it has simply been waiting to fall into our laps.”
—Jonathan Lethem, author of Motherless Brooklyn and Chronic City
“Fred is a little bit Alice, a little bit Dorothy, but wholly original and smart, smart, smart. This is exactly how I like my wordplay. Can't decide if I'm more enamored with the Insult Fish or the Elephant in the Room. Prime mother-daughter book club fodder.”
—Summer Dawn Laurie, Books Inc. (Berkeley, CA)
“Clever and fully entertaining, this humorous middle grade is perfect for parents AND young readers. I love the wordplay, the puzzles and the omnipresent narrator offering asides to the reader. Highly recommend!”
—Sarah Bagby, Watermark Books (Wichita, KS)
“Is there anything Rivka Galchen can't do?! Rat Rule 79 is that book I always longed for as young reader, full of adventure, quirky characters, and short chapters. Speaking of which, the chapter headings alone are worth the price of admission and good for a few chuckles. The storytelling by Rivka Galchen is enough to keep you riveted, but the gorgeous full-page illustrations by Elena Megalos really bring the book to eye-popping life. I dare you to read the first forty chapters and not get hooked.”
—Javier Ramirez, The Book Table (Oak Park, IL)
“One of the most ingenious children’s books I’ve seen in ages. Full of intelligence, warmth, and wit. A page-turner in its own right!”
—Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story
“A smart, witty through-the-looking-glass journey about a thousand unusual, interesting things and all the big important ones, too: home, friendship, holding on, letting go, and growing up.”
—Nicole Krauss, author of The History of Love and Great House
“Rat Rule 79 is a labyrinth of beauty, curiosity, and all things strange. Galchen effortlessly captures the chaos of being a thirteen-year-old girl; Fred is wild, half feral, both lost and found. I needed this book when I was a girl. I need this book as an adult. I will need this book when I am one hundred and thirteen.”
—Laura Graveline, Brazos Bookstore (Houston, TX)
"Rivka Galchen's Rat Rule 79 is clever and strange and so very much fun, but what makes Rat Rule 79 so remarkable is the warmth and wisdom that exudes from its pages. A subversive Wizard of Oz for kids too smart for their own good, it's sure to become many a young readers' favorite book for years to come."
—David Gonzalez, Skylight Books (Los Angeles, CA)
About the Author:
Rivka Galchen is an award winning fiction writer and journalist who loves noodles and numbers and modest-sized towns where her dad might have worked. Her work appears often in The New Yorker, Harper’s, The London Review of Books and The New York Times. She is the author of three books: Atmospheric Disturbances (Novel, FSG, 2008), American Innovations (Short Stories, FSG 2014) and Little Labors (Essays, New Directions, 2016). She has received numerous prizes and fellowships, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Rona Jaffe Fellowship, The Berlin Prize and The William J Saroyan International Prize in Fiction. In 2010, she was named to The New Yorker’s list of 20 Writers Under 40. Galchen also holds an MD from Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Rat Rule 79 is her first book for young readers.
About the Illustrator
Elena Megalos was raised in the City of Angels. When she was twelve-going-on-thirteen she dreamed of writing the cookie fortunes for her beloved neighborhood Chinese restaurant, The Unicorn. That, or illustrating a book for children. This is her first one. See more work at elenamegalos.com.
Fred is tired of moving around with her professor mother, and her dissatisfaction peaks just prior to her 13th birthday. Unable to sleep, she catches her mom stepping into a large paper lantern that has unaccountably appeared in their new living room, and so she follows. She finds herself in a strange new world inhabited by animals, most of whom are bound by rules created by the mysterious missing Rat Queen. (Of note is the titular Rat Rule 79, which states that children will no longer grow up and that time will no longer pass.) Along with new friends Downer the elephant and Gogo the mongoose, Fred embarks on an epic series of adventures to find her mother and locate the infamous Rat Queen. Peppered throughout the sweetly playful text are tidbits of wisdom that highlight the perceived injustices of youth and the qualities of growing older. Galchen's charming middle-grade debut is filled with life lessons wrapped in occasionally over-the-top wordplay, and Megalos's whimsical salmon-tinged illustrations provide a delightful counterpoint. Though absurdist situations and plays on logic can at times overwhelm the plot, the novel's underlying messages are as timeless as its tethers to classic works of children's fantasy. Ages 10 up.