Misunderstood jacket

Misunderstood: Why the Humble Rat May be Your Best Pet Ever

As much a moving memoir as it is an amusing pet manual, Misunderstood is a unique nonfiction book for teens and tweens about domesticated rats in general and a wonderful rat named Iris in particular. Brimming with smarts and energy just like its furry subjects, Rachel Toor’s text blends history and science with profiles of interesting people and autobiographical anecdotes as it joyfully sets the record straight about why this reviled creature is actually a most amazing species. Readers will come away with a deeper understanding and appreciation of domestic rats―and may be convinced to adopt one themselves.

“Artfully weaves extensive research and personal enthusiasm into a humorous treatise on the merits of rats, ‘perhaps the world’s most unfairly reviled species,’ as pets. In a book that serves, in part, as a memoir of Toor’s late pet, Iris, she tackles head-on the visceral objections of many and extols the charms of the domesticated rat . . . The book is well targeted to animal-loving teens, and Toor’s conversational tone, wealth of information, and ebullience could sway many skeptics.” ―Publishers Weekly

“In this irresistible memoir-manual, Toor interweaves scientific studies, autobiographical anecdotes, and surprisingly riveting research to dispel deep-seated—and often unwarranted—anxieties about Rattus norvegicus, or pet rats. Centered on her three-and-a-half-year love affair “with someone the size of a hot dog bun,” the ever-inquisitive Iris, Toor talks tails (they’re used for thermoregulation), travel, domestication, veterinary care, and rat types. Notably, Toor consistently couples scientific findings with her own effortlessly engaging narrative. In a particularly poignant chapter, Toor pairs research on rats’ empathic capability with Iris’ undeniable bond to Toor’s terminally ill mother. With its photo-marked chapter breaks, handy further reading suggestions, and conversational tone, this is not only a useful resource for future rat owners and ardent animal-lovers but also young essay writers.”—Booklist

“Have you ever considered owning a pet rat? Would you believe that rats make great, low-maintenance pets? Toor aims to reverse negative attitudes toward rats by informing readers of their pleasant nature and many amazing abilities and providing some personal anecdotes about her own rat, Iris. Hesitant readers will immediately be drawn in by the first line of the introduction: “For three and a half years I was in love with someone the size of a hot dog bun.” Toor mixes humor with genuine affection as she details how she came to appreciate rats while also debunking some common myths students may be familiar with. For instance, she clarifies that rats alone did not cause the Black Plague; rather, it was the fleas that lived on them (which carried the disease in the form of a bacterial microbe) that were largely responsible. In addition, she briefly covers the concepts of evolution, genetics, and domestication to show how environment and circumstance can influence how a creature develops and acts. The true highlight of this work is the relationship between Toor and Iris during a challenging period in Toor’s life (her mother was diagnosed with cancer). Students will feel close to the loving and sweet-tempered Iris. However, tenderhearted readers should be warned that Toor’s mother and Iris both die. The author includes material on ratteries (rat breeders), different rat varieties (based on color and coat), and questions to consider before opting for a pet rat. VERDICT A delightful addition to any library or classroom’s creative nonfiction section.”  — School Library Journal