"First grade babies! Second grade cats! Third grade angels! Fourth grade...RRRRRATS!"
Suds doesn't mind being in fourth grade, but he doesn't want to be a "rat." Ordinarily, this wouldn't be too much of a problem, except that his best friend, Joey, takes it very seriously. According to Joey, being a rat is the next step up to being a man. And if you're a rat, Joey explains, you can't cry or be afraid of things. You have to leave your lunch box at home, make a mess of your room, and say "no" to your mother. You have to push little kids off swings and take their Twinkies.
Suds tries to follow Joey's lead, but his heart isn't in it, until the day that Joey lets himself get stung by a bee and doesn't even flinch or cry. Suddenly Judy Billings, the girl Suds has loved for as long as he can remember, is following Joey around everywhere. If being a rat will get Judy to notice him, Suds figures that he can do it. And it even works, at first...but after Suds rescues Judy's cat, she literally leaves him up a tree, and he has some time to think. Without even realizing it, Suds takes his first real step toward becoming a grown-up.
Full of humor and drama that will ring true for elementary-school children, this brief novel captures the mix of emotions and experiences that accompanies the transition to fourth grade, or any grade. Jerry Spinelli, author of the Newbery Medal-winning Maniac Magee and the Newbery Honor Book Wringer, is an expert at targeting the issues that weigh on his readers' minds, and he addresses them seriously, without condescension, in this fun and thoughtful chapter book.