When You Wish Upon a Rat / Careful What You Wish For by Maureen McCarthy
When You Wish Upon a Rat by Maureen McCarthy is the US edition of the book originally released in Australia as Careful What You Wish For. I’m going to refer to it as When You Wish Upon a Rat as I have a review copy from the US publisher ABRAMS. The US edition is due out September 1st while the original Australian edition was published in 2010 by Allen & Unwin.
When You Wish Upon a Rat is a story about Ruth, a slightly self-centred eleven year old who isn’t particularly fond of her family except for one favourite aunt, Mary Ellen. Mary Ellen gives Ruth a lifelike toy rat and hints that he’s somehow special. In the course of events the rat grants Ruth three wishes — three chances to change her life into the life she wants. Unsurprisingly, things go horribly awry.
As an adult reader, it was quite obvious from the start what lessons Ruth would learn (in short, to appreciate her family and her life as it is), but I didn’t feel that detracted from the story at all. It is, after all, about the journey not the destination and McCarthy takes us on an interesting and at times surprising journey. There was even an unexpected “Aha!” moment near the end.
I enjoyed the Australianess of the setting and was glad to see that not all the Australianisms were removed for the US edition. In fact, I think the only changes were spelling and one confusing sentence mentioning “liberal arts” and “math”. All the slang, as far as I noticed, was Australian, which was nice.
While When You Wish Upon a Rat is definitely a book for children, I don’t think it’s one that adult readers would find dull or simplistic, as with some books in the same age bracket I’ve read (not reviewed on this blog). Despite the pending moral, I found it entertaining and and enjoyable quick read. I definitely recommend it to kids/early teens. The fantasy element is obviously present but not blatant and the setting (sans magic rat) is entirely realistic so I think non-fantasy fans would also enjoy it.
4 / 5 stars