This is the first book of a series, and I have only read the first two so far. This book was very fun to read. The second book in the series was not as entertaining, and presented trickier moral delimmas than the first book. You can read my review here. Some parents might prefer to end the series with this first book, since it definitely can stand alone from the series.
My Mom-Meter gives this particular book an overall safety rating of 2 (Moderately Safe) for ages 8 and up.
I did not find a good synopsis online, so here is a brief summary of this book: Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat is about a girl whose parents recently inherited lots of money and a house, and are now traveling all the time without Emmy. They don’t seem to want to be around their daughter anymore. Emmy’s nanny, Miss Barmy, tells Emmy that if she is very good, then her parents will love her and want to be around her. Emmy tries very hard to be good, but she is ignored by everyone except the class pet, the Rat. Emmy can hear him talk, and he is very sarcastic. Through the Rat, Emmy learns about different rodents that can transfer amazing abilities in various ways (being bitten by the rodent, eating something with a paw print on it, etc.). It is not through magic, but explained scientifically. Emmy also learns that her Miss Barmy has been using rodents to poison her parents so that they would forget about Emmy. She was also poisoning Emmy to be invisible to other people. The nanny’s plan was to get the parents to forget about Emmy and then die in their travels in a way that looked like natural causes. Miss Barmy ends up persuading Emmy’s parents to send Emmy to a Home for Troubled Girls, but Emmy and her rodent friends save the day and Miss Barmy turns into a rat because of her bitter heart. Once the poison wears off, Emmy’s parents remember her, and everyone lives happily ever after (except for Miss Barmy).
Here are the potential moral issues parents might wish to talk with their kids about:
- Miss Barmy tells Emmy that her parents will love her if she is good, makes good grades, brings home more trophies, etc. Potential Discussion Point: Do you think that you can earn love by being good?
- Emmy has to disobey in order to escape Miss Barmy’s poisoning. Potential Discussion Point: Are there times when we should disobey?
- Emmy lets the Rat out of his cage, and, throughout the book, keeping animals in cages is considered a terrible thing. Potential Discussion Point: Is it cruel to keep animals in a cage?
- Emmy’s friend, Joe, wishes that his parents wouldn’t make him practice soccer all the time. His dad calls him stupid for missing the ball during a soccer game. After Joe goes missing, his father says he doesn’t care if Joe never plays soccer again, as long as he’s home, safe and sound. Potential Discussion Point: Should parents talk to their kids the way Joe’s dad did at the soccer game? Should Emmy hide Joe from his parents? Was Joe kind to his parents?
- Emmy’s parents seem to only care about traveling and parties, which is the opposite of what they truly care about. Potential Discussion Point: Should parents care about something other than themselves? Do you ever act like you care more about yourself than others? Should people in general care for something other than themselves?
- Miss Barmy was very evil, but she said it was because she was jealous of the rich girls she took care of as a nanny. At the end of the book, Professor Capybara says “Jane Barmy had two parents… She had a loving example before her [her father], as well as a vicious one [her mother]. She made her choice.” Potential Discussion Point: Does it ever help to focus on what others have? Do you think that Miss Barmy would have been so evil if she had learned to be grateful for what she did have (kind father, good jobs, etc.)?
- There is a reference to drugs when the police are trying to sort out the case. When Emmy and Joe tell the police the truth, the police assume that the children were drugged with hallucinogens.
- Emmy remembers that the rich uncle who had left her parents the money had come to visit them when they were still poor. He was disguised as a poor man, dressed in rags, but her parents had treated him with kindness, and that was why he left his money to them. Potential Discussion Point: Does it always pay to be kind to others?
From a kid’s perspective: “I think kids 8+ who like rodents and mysterious people will like it. I give it 3 and a half stars out of 5 stars.”