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In this middle-grade adventure novel debut, a subway rat must cross New York City to bring his lost little brother home.
Raffie Lipton lives a rat’s dream life. In his family’s subway station home, he has all the food he can forage from the treasure chests humans call trash cans, and the perfect shoebox bed for telling his brother his famous adventure stories. But when one of those stories goes awry and his little brother is taken from their Brooklyn subway station, Raffie must set out on an adventure across the city to find him. Along the way, he meets other urban animalsa street-wise pigeon, a pampered show dog, a genteel cockroachand he faces hungry cats, greedy squirrels, and sewer rat kings.
In Raffie on the Run, Jaqueline Resnick crafts a tale of friendship and adventure, where a little rat with a big imagination must embark on his own real-life story, and find the inner hero he isn’t sure he has. Includes adorable illustrations by Joe Sutphin.
A 2018 Junior Library Guild pick
"A great selection for readers in search of a fun animal fantasy." Kirkus Reviews
|Publisher:||Roaring Brook Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.70(w) x 8.40(h) x 2.10(d)|
|Age Range:||8 - 12 Years|
About the Author
Jacqueline Resnick spent twelve years living in Manhattan and Brooklyn, where every once in a while she was lucky enough to spot a subway rat at her local station. She now lives with her family in New Jersey.
Joe Sutphin lives in a red barn in Ohio. He’s the illustrator of Word of Mouse by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein, and when he’s not drawing, he can be found outside, looking under rocks for critters.
Read an Excerpt
I scurry along a pipe, the smell of pizza still fresh in my snout. I climb over a cinder block, weave around a glob of dust, and squeeze through a crack in the insulation. I strike a pose as my paws land on the woven straw-wrapper rug in my family's living nook. "Selfie!" I declare. I picked that word up from a human recently. It's a fancy way of announcing your arrival.
"Raffie!" My baby brother, Oggie, jumps off the chair I crafted for him out of a dirt-stuffed sock. He scurries over to me, his whiskers twitching with excitement. "Did you see the pizza? Did you did you did you?"
I laugh as I head over to our new row of cupboards. It took my dad months to forage enough cereal boxes to build them. "Maybe," I tease. "And maybe it's only missing a single bite this time."
"Yum yum yum," Oggie cheers.
Everyone has their favorite food. Dad loves slurping up sour milk. Mom is a fan of day-old curries. My older sister, Lulu, never turns down rotten fruit. But Oggie and I have a shared love. Sour tomato sauce ... moldy cheese ... hardened crust ... There is nothing in the world better than a slice of aged pizza.
I pull a white paper carton out of the cupboard. It's filled with the slop my mom mixes up out of leftover forages. This one smells of blackened bananas and melted ice cream and hardened noodles and just a hint of sticky rice.
I fill two bottle caps and nudge one over to Oggie. "Snack is served."
"I don't want slop," Oggie whines. "I want pizza!" He presses his snout against mine and blinks his big, round eyes. "Pleaaaaase, Raffie?"
"I'll go forage it as soon as Mom or Dad gets back to watch you," I promise. "They'll kill me if they find out I left you alone just to go check for the pizza. Besides, what do I always say?"
Oggie slurps up his slop in a single bite. "Aged pizza is the best pizza," he recites.
"Exactly." I lap up my own slop. "The longer that pizza ages in the treasure chest, the better it will taste."
There's a loud clatter behind us. I turn around to see Lulu pushing her way through an air vent. She's wearing ketchup packets on her paws, a paper sleeve from a cup around her stomach, and colorful twist ties braided up her tail. My sister has a passion for fashion. "No forages?" I ask, eying Lulu's empty paws.
"The thief is early," she tells us. "We're clearing the station."
Oggie's eyes meet mine. "Our pizza," he breathes.
I scurry to the spying hole. I'm still too small to see out of it, so I climb onto my espresso cup stool. On the other side of the subway tracks, I see the thief in his bright yellow vest. He's stomping toward one of the station's treasure chests, carrying the black bag he uses to rob us. My heart thuds wildly. Once he empties that treasure chest, he'll rob the one on our side of the tracks. The one with the slice of pizza in it.
"Thief alert! Thief alert!" I hear my dad before I see him.
He pushes through a crack in some insulation, followed closely by my mom. She's panting as she takes a head count. "Lulu, Raffie, Oggie. Thank the trash you're all here." She collapses on her favorite chair, the one she built out of a tissue box when Oggie was born. "I panic when the thief comes early. You know how much he hates rats. When I think about what happened to your great-uncle Reed ..." She shudders.
My dad brings her a thimble of lemon sewer water. "But we're all home, safe and sound. Here, drink this, honey."
Oggie squeezes onto the stool next to me. We both peer out into the subway station. On the other side of the tracks, the thief is knotting his black bag of plunders. "You'll save our pizza, right?" Oggie whispers to me.
I scrunch up my snout. "I don't —"
"You can do anything!" Oggie continues. "Just like in your stories. Raffie the Unstoppable! Remember how you stopped a runaway train single-pawed? And chased a wild cat off the platform?"
I look away. "I don't think I —"
"You did!" Oggie beams. "You told me!" He lowers his voice. "A thief is nothing to Raffie the Unstoppable, right?"
I watch the thief toss the bulging bag onto his shoulder. He's still across the tracks. "Right, um ... of course." I straighten up tall and try to ignore the trembling in my paws. "You distract Mom and Dad," I whisper. "Raffie the Unstoppable is going to get you that pizza!"
Oggie's tail whips in happy circles as he hops down from the stool. He grabs a foil burrito wrapper out of the cupboard. "Look, Mom! See what I can make!"
Oggie gnaws at the foil until it begins to resemble a rat. My little brother is a very talented gnawer. I wait until everyone is oohing over Oggie's skills. Then I slip through a hole in the wall and scurry out to the platform.
A Cat-and-Mouse Game
The treasure chest closest to our home is the best one in the station. It's always overflowing with soggy newspapers and empty cups and food — such good food! Slimy ham! Melted chocolate! Mushy eggs! Stale muffins! Food that has rotted and festered, turned crusty and gooey. Food that has melted in the heat or hardened in the cold. Food that has spoiled, spoiled, spoiled, all day long.
I scamper up to the rounded metal edge of the treasure chest and peer down. There it is: a perfect triangle of pizza, with only one bite missing. The pizza isn't as old and moldy as I'd like, but fresh pizza is better than no pizza.
Warm, stale air rushes into the subway station as, out on the tracks, a train announces its arrival with a shriek. On the other side of the tracks, the thief hauls his loot toward the stairs. He'll arrive on my side of the station any minute, carrying a fresh black bag to rob us with.
I slip into the treasure chest as the doors of the train swish open. The conductor's voice echoes through the station. "This is Bergen Street, Brooklyn. Next stop, Jay Street–MetroTech. Stand clear of the closing doors, please." Humans pour off the train, scattering left and right, filling the station with their voices. But I'm far enough inside the treasure chest that none of them spot me. The smell of pizza fills my snout. Oggie is going to be one happy baby.
"That pizza's mine."
I whip around to find Ace Kellogg clambering into the treasure chest.
My fur stands on end. Ace is one of the biggest, strongest, fastest rats in the station. He can outrun the tallest of humans; he can dislodge the heaviest of forages; he can leap over the tracks' electric third rail without ruffling a single strand of fur.
And he never lets anyone forget it.
"Did you really think a mouse could score a forage like that?" Ace sneers.
"I am not a mouse," I say through gritted incisors.
The station empties out as the train roars its goodbye. Soon, there's just a single set of footsteps moving down the stairs. I'd recognize those footsteps anywhere. They belong to the thief. We don't have long.
Ace's eyes meet mine. His whiskers twitch greedily. "Okay then, may the best rat eat!" I lift my tail and dive for the pizza. My paws splay out. My whiskers fly back. I'm going to get this —
Ace crashes into me from the side. I go tumbling away from the pizza. "AHHH!" I smack into the side of the treasure chest. I claw at the metal wall, but I can't get a grip.
"Ow!" I land headfirst inside a paper carton of peanutty noodles. On the other side of the carton, I can hear Ace laughing.
I flip myself right side up and paw a noodle off my eye. Ace is standing on top of the slice of pizza, cheese dripping down his snout. Outside the treasure chest, I hear the thief's footsteps reach the bottom of the stairs. "Oh, did I bump into you, Mouse?" Ace sneers. "You're so small I didn't even see you there."
"I. Am. Not. A. Mouse," I hiss. "I am Raffie the Unstoppable! And that pizza is mine." I leap out of the carton. But my paw gets tangled in a noodle and my tail is stuck in some sticky sauce. Instead of flying fiercely toward Ace, I go tumbling into a cup of water.
I come out sopping wet.
Ace is laughing hysterically as he lifts the pizza in his teeth. I surge toward him. I grab the crust in my incisors and yank with all my might. The pizza doesn't budge from his grip. "You wish," Ace says through a mouthful of cheese. With the pizza gripped firmly in his teeth, he scampers up the side of the treasure chest. He pauses on the rim. "Poor itty-bitty Raffie." He tears off a tiny piece of crust and tosses it down to me. "Here. You can have my scraps, Mouse."
With a snort, he disappears, taking the pizza with him. I'm shaking with fury as I lift the scrap of crust in my teeth. That pizza should have been mine! I spotted it first! I can already imagine the disappointment on Oggie's face when I come home empty-pawed.
The creak of a turnstile makes me jump. The thief is close. I need to get out of here. I crawl out of the treasure chest, slipping a little on my wet paws, and skitter as fast as I can into a shadow.
I spin around.
The thief is in the middle of the platform. His eyes meet mine. I've been spotted.
"No, no, no, no, no," the thief says. "Nonononono." His voice is low and piercing. He's doing his battle cry.
A shiver starts in my tail and runs all the way up to my ears. Great-Uncle Reed heard a battle cry once, and he never came home. My limbs feel heavier than a bottle full of soda. Run, I tell myself. But I can't move; I can hardly even breathe.
The thief's eyes are glued to mine. "Nonononono," he keeps saying. He takes several slow and deliberate steps backward. He's doing his battle dance.
My heart is galloping in my chest and I'm shaking all over, but still my paws won't budge. I get a bad taste in my mouth, like I accidentally ate a bag of vegetables before they rotted. This is it, I think. I'm going to end up just like Great-Uncle Reed.
The sound of a bell shakes me out of my stupor. It's my family alarm. They're telling me to get home.
I think of Oggie, waiting worriedly for my return. "I'm coming, little brother," I whisper. My eyes find a nearby air vent that leads to home. This time, when I yank at my paws, they lift. I run faster than I ever have in my life. Past the tall green beam painted with classified human codes. Over a wad of doughnut mashed into the platform crack. I'm breathing hard by the time I reach the air vent. The thief is still saying his battle cry as I dive headfirst through it.
I land in a heap in our living room. My mom is frantically sounding our alarm. Oggie bounds over and nuzzles against me. "What happened?" he gasps. "Tell me everything!"
"I —" I begin.
"I don't want to hear it," my mom cuts in. "Do you know how dangerous that was, Raffie? We heard the thief's battle cry!"
"What were you thinking?" my dad continues.
"You know the rules, Raffie."
"I —" I begin again, but this time, my dad cuts me off. "You do know the rules, right?" He wrings his tail between his front paws. "What's the first rule of rathood?"
I study the straw-wrapper rug at my paws. "Never be spotted."
"Yes! Never be spotted!" my mom explodes.
"Especially by the thief!"
"And what's the second rule of rathood?" my dad presses.
"Never cross the tracks without a parent," I mutter.
"That's right," my dad says. "Now, tell me what the final rule of rathood is."
"Never set paw in the Roadway," I recite.
"Ever," my dad adds darkly.
I can't help but shiver. Every subway rat knows about the Roadway. It's an underground pathway through the city, a dark, sinister place, made up of sewers and pipes and abandoned subway tunnels. Only the most soulless of rats live down there, rats who would strike out against one another just to survive. And there are snakes too, and evil cats, and — a shudder runs through me — rattraps and rat poison, everywhere.
Oggie scoots closer to me. I wind my tail through his. "It's okay, Oggie," my mom says. She gives him a nuzzle. "As long as you follow the rules of rathood, you'll be fine. Which means no more run-ins with the thief." She gives me a pointed look. "Got it?" My whiskers droop. "Got it," I mumble.
"Good." My dad lets out a sigh. "It's for your own safety, Raffie. Remember that. Now, off to your room. Your mom and I will decide your punishment."
I slink off to the bedroom I share with Oggie and Lulu. Oggie rushes in after me. "Where's the pizza?" he whispers. "Did you get it? Did you hide it somewhere safe? Did you did you?"
The tiny piece of crust is still tucked away in the back of my mouth. I spit it onto the ground. "I brought you crust," I tell him.
Oggie's whiskers quiver. Disappointment floods his face. "Where's sauce? Where's cheese?"
I look down. "I ... uh ..."
"Did the thief battle you?" Oggie gasps.
I fidget from paw to paw. "Well ... um ..."
"Was it a scary battle?" Oggie asks eagerly. "Was it dangerous? It was, wasn't it?"
I look up. Oggie's eyes are wide with excitement. "Yes," I say slowly. "Yes, Oggie, it was." I pace through the room, past the shoe box I sleep in, past the pickle jar Oggie sleeps in and the pink, ribbony shoe Lulu sleeps in, all the way to the matchboxes that hold some of Lulu's accessories. The story is growing in my brain, molding and twisting until I can see it so clearly, I nearly believe it.
"I made it safely into the treasure chest," I tell Oggie. "I had the pizza gripped in my teeth! But then the thief arrived." I let my voice dip lower, so Oggie has to move close to hear me. "Have you ever seen the thief's hand up close, Oggie? It's huge — bigger than Dad's whole body! And that hand reached into the treasure chest ... right toward me. The thief let out his battle cry, but I refused to back down. You know why, Oggie? Because when it comes to pizza, I have a motto: never give up!"
"Yeah!" Oggie bounces on his paws. "Never give up!"
"That's right. So I held tightly to that pizza and scurried up the side of the treasure chest. But the thief wouldn't let me go that easily. He grabbed for me! I jumped out of the way just in time, but he got my pizza — which he ripped right out of my mouth. I sacrificed that pizza for my life, Oggie. But I was able to hold on to this one small piece of crust, just for you."
"Wow, Raffie," Oggie breathes. "You really are unstoppable."
I look away, suddenly unable to meet his eyes. I study the station crests that hang on our wall: a Lipton tea bag for my family, a Kellogg cereal label for Ace's family, and a 100% Cashmere tag for the Cashmere family. "Yes," I say. "I really am."
"Plastic." My mom rolls an empty water bottle over to Lulu.
"Metal." I hand my dad a paper clip. He tosses me a balled-up receipt in return.
We're in the sorting nook, and Oggie and I are on paper duty. Oggie grabs the receipt out of my paws and places it on the stack of napkins and MetroCards and straw wrappers and paper bags and newspapers and envelopes and empty food boxes that my family has foraged over the past week. "Sorting day is the best," he says. "I love being a back rat!"
"Pack rat," I correct. I taught him that recently, after I heard a human say it on the platform. The platform is the best place to collect new words and sayings.
"Pack rat," Oggie repeats. He curls his tail happily. "Raffie's a great teacher," he informs my family.
"So we've heard." Lulu rolls her eyes. She must have gotten glitter in them again. Lulu likes glitter almost as much as Oggie and I like pizza.
My eyes wander over to the clock. When the toothpick hits lint, Pizza Girl will arrive at the station. She has perfect timing: she gives me just enough time to forage her pizza before rush hour, when we go to bed. Mom and Dad like us to sleep while the station is busiest so we can spend the nighttime hours foraging.
"Ooh, look at this." Lulu dangles something gold and glittery in front of my snout.
"Shiny!" Oggie says.
"It's a yearing, right?" Lulu asks.
"An earring," my dad corrects.
"A dangle earring, to be precise," my mom adds.
My parents know the human names and uses of almost every item. I guess that's what happens when you're older than the hardened wad of gum stuck to the MetroCard machine.
"Dangle earrings are very important," my dad explains. "Humans store them in tiny holes in their ears so they always have a small sword at the ready."
"Wow," Lulu breathes. "Maybe I should wear one —"
"Don't even think about it," my mom warns. "There will be no holes in any ears in this household."
Lulu huffs as she throws the earring into the metal pile. "Here," my mom says. She grabs a shiny sheet of paper off the pile I sorted. "Wear one of these instead." She peels a small white square off the paper. It says I [??] NY on it. "It's called a sticker. Humans use them to repair things like notebooks and bags."
Lulu takes the sticker and presses it to Oggie's ear. "Hey!" Oggie cries. "My ear's not broken!" He tries to paw the sticker off, but it's stuck to his fur.
"Hmm." Lulu circles Oggie, studying his ear. Today she's wearing a yellow zipper around her stomach, a white bottle cap on her head, and a glittery pink shoelace knotted up her tail. "It does make Oggie look quite suave ..." She takes the sheet of stickers from my mom and tosses it into her personal accessories pile. "Thanks!"
"I don't look like a squab," Oggie says angrily. He frantically paws at his ear, but the sticker isn't going anywhere.
Excerpted from "Raffie on the Run"
Copyright © 2018 Jacqueline Resnick.
Excerpted by permission of Roaring Brook Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1 Rat Race,
2 A Cat-and-Mouse Game,
3 Pack Rats,
4 A Sitting Duck,
5 Fly the Coop,
6 A Fish out of Water,
7 Birds of a Feather Flock Together,
8 A Deer in Headlights,
9 Don't Get Your Feathers in a Bunch,
10 A Little Monkey Business,
11 Not a Clay Pigeon,
12 Don't Chicken Out,
13 Let Sleeping Dogs Lie,
14 Not Just Puppy Love,
15 In the Doghouse,
16 A Dog and Pony Show,
17 Not a Spring Chicken Anymore,
18 A Dog-Eat-Dog World,
19 Every Dog Has Its Day,
20 Kill Two Birds with One Stone,
21 Bugging Out,
22 Free as a Bird,
23 Queen Bee,
24 Squirrel Away,
25 Make a Beeline for It,
26 Can't Squirrel out of This,
27 In the Lion's Den,
28 Nervous as a Long-Tailed Cat in a Room Full of Rocking Chairs,
29 Pull a Rabbit out of a Hat,
30 Like a Moth to a Flame,
31 Like a Pig in Slop,
32 Bird's-Eye View,
33 A Little Bird Told Me,
34 Open That Can of Worms,
35 Fish in Troubled Water,
36 Happy as a Clam,
37 Straight from the Horse's Mouth,
38 Raining Cats and Dogs,
39 A Drowned Rat,
40 Ratted Out,
41 Don't Let the Cat out of the Bag,
42 Smell a Rat,
44 Till the Cows Come Home,
45 Like Ducks to Water,
46 A Rat's Tale,
About the Author and Illustrator,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I loved Jacqueline Resnick's newest book - Raffie on the Run. It is a well-crafted tale of a pizza loving NYC rat that lives with his family behind the walls of the Bergen Street subway station in Brooklyn. Raffie loves to tell his little brother Oggie tall tales about his adventures in New York. One day Oggie is taken from their beloved Brooklyn subway station by several children. Raffie now has to live up to the nickname his brother gave him – Raffie the Unstoppable – as he goes on a remarkable adventure through the subways, streets, buildings and sewers of New York City to save his little brother. In his adventure he partners with a pigeon (who has his own interesting tale weaved into the story line), a pampered show dog, an extraordinary cockroach and other animal residents of the City. Raffie also confronts hungry cats, a greedy squirrel with his own social media following, sewer rat kings, a flock of mean pigeons, a Central Park falcon and a horde of unhappy animals captured by NYC animal control. The story is about whether Raffie can live up to his nickname? Can he successfully embark on a real adventure and find the inner hero his brother thinks he is and which he must be to save his brother? I wholeheartedly recommend this book for children of all ages, as well as grown-ups who love a great animal story. Five stars!