7.01.2012

Bat and Rat by Patrick Jennings, illustrated by Matthew Cordell



There are just so many things I like about Bat and Rat by Patrick Jennings and Matthew Cordell. I've been sitting with this book for a while now, reading it at story time over and over, poring over the details of the wonderful artwork, overcoming my fear of singing in public and wondering just what the song that Bat and Rat compose sounded like in Patrick Jennings' head as he wrote it and in Matthew Cordell's head as he illustrated it. I really, really don't like to sing in public. I will do it for kids, but I get very self conscious when their parents can hear me too. Nevertheless, there are a few great books that must be sung. Like Eric Litwin and James Dean's Pete the Cat. Maybe Jennings and/or Cordell will record themselves singing "My Favorite Favorite" some day. Until then, we have a fantastic book trailer for  Bat and Rat with a jaunty little tune composed by . . . But, I'm getting ahead of myself.

When I discovered Trouble Gum by Matthew Cordell in a bookstore in Seattle a few years ago I became an instant fan. This year saw the publication of the fantastic Another Brother, written and illustrated by Cordell as well as Itsy-Bitsy Baby Mouse by Michelle Meadows, Gail Carson Levine's hilarious collection of false apology poems, Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It, and the second book in Rachel Vail's Justin Case series. With five months left in the year, Cordell has two more books due to be published! And he crafted Bat and Rat puppets and put on a show at the ALA with 100 Scope Notes author and super-school-librarian, Travis Jonker. Click the link for pictures, or scroll down. As much as I love Matthew Cordell, no matter how great the illustrations, you have to have a good story to make a readable and memorable book. Bat and Rat definitely has a great - a weird, kooky and sometimes icky story. Nocturnal creatures, Bat and Rat are a songwriting duo who live and perform at the Hotel Midnight, in the top floor in the Twelve O'Clock Room. Bat lives on the top floor and Rat in the basement and two of my favorite pictures in the book come when we see Bat plunge off the top of the Hotel Midnight on his way down to meet Rat and, at the left, we see Rat climbing the steps from her home up to the lobby to meet Rat. I always love a good doll-house-spread where you have to turn the book sideways and get to see into the characters lives!

Rat is stuck on a lyric for a new song Bat has written so the two head out for a cold, creamy ice cream on a hot night, Rat's treat. Mosquito Ripple! Mint Fly Chip! Butter Beetle Pecan! So many favorite flavors! Bat can't decide so he gets them all. What kid (or adult) hasn't fantasized about getting a scoop of every favorite flavor? A sad, but pretty funny, mishap leaves Bat with only one scoop on his cone, as well as my second favorite illustration in the book. I had no idea an artist could render a bat with a look of such heartbreaking agony on his face, but Cordell does. However, after a bit of blaming and a bit more empathy, Bat copes with his loss and declares that his remaining scoop of ice cream is in fact his "favorite favorite." Hearing this, Rat knows the lyrics to her new song. And, she and Bat also realize that their "favorite favorite" thing is each other.
The book ends with Rat and Bat performing their song to great applause. And the part where I have to sing... But, really, there are enough funny parts of the song that even the tone deaf among us can read/sing this story successfully. And, singing aside, in Bat and Rat Patrick Jennings has created a pair of friends who can take their place alongside Frog and Toad, George and Martha and, yes, Elephant and Piggie. In fact, Bat and Rat calls to mind the kind of story Mo Willems might write about Gerald and Piggie if he wasn't writing books for emerging readers.
But, the coolest little book fact I have come across yet has to be this tidbit:  In April of this year Cordell created his second book trailer ever, this one for  Bat and Rat. With the help of Jennings he worked out the script and, at the last minute, Jennings' "also heavily-talented daughter, Odette, swooped in to save us with her sweet, jingly piano tune that goes perfectly with the song in the book, Favorite Favorite." How cool is that? A family affair! And a great book trailer - take a look!

Matthew Cordell has a great blog where he shares lots of sneak-peeks of what he's working on. Way back in April of 2011 he shared city scenes from  Bat and Rat, although I didn't know what it was at the time... 

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