Listen up, anthropomorphic kids’ book nerds. You know who you are: those of you that are re-reading Redwall start to finish for the six thousandth time, referencing Bunnicula, and rehashing the minute differences between Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH and its surprisingly classic movie remake The Secret of NIMH.
There’s a new kid in town, and we’ve got your exclusive cover reveal here for New York Time’s Bestselling Author Josh Lieb’s Ratscalibur.
The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon producer follows up I Am A Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to Be Your Class President with this ratty reimagining of the King Arthur tale, and it promises to be a hoot. Or whatever sound rats make.
It’s Ratatouille meets A Kid in King Arthur’s Court. A seventh-grader gets bitten by an elderly rat and finds himself rodent-ized and rodent sized, navigating the city streets and smells from his newfound three inch-high stature. But when he pulls the spork from the scone, he finds himself contending with fulfilling ancient rat prophecy.
“If you love rats, you’ll love the book,” Lieb said. “Rats have a kind of freedom that children can aspire to. They’re already so low and dirty. They can hide in the walls.”
Lieb liked the idea of an epic quest on a smaller scale, in the tradition of Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones, but scaled down for rats. “All this middle grade and YA stuff, it’s all about a normal-ish human boy or girl being plucked and trains to be a specialized assassin or something,” Lieb observed, adding that whatever useless thing there is about him always turns out to be an asset. “Like if the way I cracked my knuckles drove ogres insane,” or something. That’s the kind of story he wanted to tell in Ratscalibur.
“The Sword in the Stone is such a pure version of the ‘boy plucked from obscurity,’” Lieb said. With so many sweeping, massive versions of that story for kids to turn to down the line, he felt it would be fun to write a similar quest, but on an introductory level for kids. “Second-graders are probably reading Lord of the Rings already, but this is a fun reimagining of a story,” he said, for kids and the adults reading it to them. “I write for kids and emotionally stunted adults equally,” Lieb added, appealing to fantasy fans with a “pastiche of pastiches” from all their favorite authors. It’s all in there, from Tolkien to the Pendragons, “all jammed together in rat form.”
Lieb was a latecomer to fantasy fiction, jumping on board in his 20s. “I enjoyed the Arthurian stuff, the stuff that really feels ancient,” he said, referring to everyone’s favorite medieval legend. “I don’t enjoy ‘funny fantasy,’ that relies heavily on fantasy puns,” Lieb said. “I’m not going to name names, but they know who they are-“ those fantasy authors trading exclusively in wizard word play.
Lieb doesn’t take such distasteful shortcuts, just tells a great story for kids, adults and rats. “Just a story about a normal boy who turns into an extraordinary rat, which most normal boys probably could.”