The best thing about Emmy is not that she's a good girl. It isn't that she obeys her nanny or gets good grades. And it certainly isn't that she eats her vegetables. No, the best thing about the heroine of Lynne Jonell's Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat is that Emmy develops the courage to believe in herself.

Emmy has lived a curious life ever since her parents inherited Great-Great-Uncle William's mansion and fortune. The kids at school look right through her and her teacher forgets her name. Miss Barmy, her new nanny, insists that Emmy eat tofu and visit the school psychologist. But Emmy's life is never the same after the day the class' pet rat begins talking to her.

The strange events of Emmy's life suddenly seem connected, and they all appear to lead right back to Miss Barmy: Emmy's parents forget about their daughter after they eat Miss Barmy's potato rolls, Miss Barmy berates Emmy for her supposed behavioral problems and makes her drink an unidentifiable violet tonic and then, of course, there's the talking rat. When classmate Joe Benson can suddenly see her and the Rat follows her home, Emmy decides to investigate these intriguing instances in a quest for self-confidence and her parents' love. But can she uncover the peculiar mystery while the ever-present Miss Barmy lurks in every corner? And can Miss Barmy's true nature be revealed before it's too late for Emmy and her parents? Jonell has invented a fantastic tale of magic, bravery and love, and Jonathan Bean's flip book illustrations of the Rat crawling across a branch and tumbling into Emmy's hands add to the charm. Friends are found in the unlikeliest of places and Emmy discovers that it is OK to sometimes venture outside of the good-girl role. With friends like Joe, the Rat, Brian and Professor Capybara by her side, the newly confident Emmy can move mountains.

Jonell has published seven picture books, but this is her first fiction for middle-grade readers. She is currently working on a sequel to Emmy's adventures, which we hope will be just as rousing as her first.

Katie Lewis investigates her own mysteries sans rodents in Nashville.

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