Naked Mole Rat Saves the World by Karen Rivers. Narrated by Cassandra Morris. Recorded Books, 2020.
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4
Genre: Magical realism
What did you like about the book? Kit, whose name is spelled with a lower case k, was born with alopecia universalis. Her lack of hair does not figure prominently in the story, but it may have something to do with the anxiety that both she and her mother have about the world. In fact, kit’s name is also the acronym for their mantra: keep it together. Kit has panic attacks, during which she thinks she changes into a naked mole rat. Kit’s best friend Clem has a terrible accident when her family of gymnasts is performing, and she feels she has changed, especially in the way that she feels about her brother, who she thinks may be responsible for her fall. She can’t come to terms with the ways her accident changed her, and never wants to do gymnastics again. Both girls have secrets. They are on the cusp of adolescence, and it is hard for each of them when their secrets threaten their friendship. In alternating points of view, this story of growing, changing, and managing anxiety in different ways, unfolds in the setting of Brooklyn, New York. The feelings and relationships feel very real and relatable, with the occasional touches of magic realism shaking things up. The narration is excellent. Cassandra Morris’s voice is the perfect blend of professional narration and adolescent emotion.
Anything you didn’t like about it? Kids who prefer straight realism may want to avoid the book, as the naked mole rat episodes are a bit random.
To whom would you recommend this book? This should appeal to middle grade readers who like Rebecca Stead and Linda Mullaly Hunt, books that deal with anxiety and relationships.
Who should buy this book? Elementary and middle school and public libraries
Where would you shelve it ? Fiction
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA
Date of review: March 3, 2020