Thursday, April 27, 2017

EVOLUTION REVOLUTION: Simple Plans by Charlotte Bennardo (Review by Michael Gettel-Gilmartin)

Back in October, I wrote about the first book in Charlotte Bennardo's appealing series EVOLUTION REVOLUTION. I admired the adventurous and resourceful squirrel, Jack, and his quest to protect his woods from a human development project. I praised the style, and the illustrations. And I hoped that Jack's adventures would continue.

Well, continue they did. In this second book, we once again see Jack in action--but this time his efforts go to save a friend. I have to say, Charlotte Bennardo does a magnificent job of making us feel sorry for a rat!

Here's a summary of what the novel is about:
After leading the battle against the construction machines to save his woods, Jack the squirrel continues visiting his human friend, Collin. He brings Sister, and Bird, who can copy Collin's words. This allows Jack to 'talk' to Collin. When Jack shares what he learns with the other woodland animals, Fox wants no part of learning anything human. Rat is too busy teasing the humans who spy on the animals. When Rat gets tagged and caged, Jack has to figure out how to save him while avoiding the humans who want most to capture him--and won't stop until they do.
 I want to concentrate on the way Charlotte Bennardo elicits our sympathies for Rat. Her characters openly state that rats are abhorrent to humans. In fact, in one scene, when Rat and Jack harass the human characters who are spying in the wood there are plenty of screams! Rat is full of himself--his favorite appellation is "King Rat." Despite this, Jack feels gratitude for Rat's help battling the humans, and he introduces Rat to their human ally, the young boy Collin.

Collin, though unnerved by Rat, strokes him. Rat enjoys this, and suddenly we see Rat as not just a repulsive and aggressive creature but as a sentient being who has feelings too. The worst scene is when Rat is captured and caged, and a metal tag is pushed through his ear. At that point, I actually shuddered. Rat had my sympathies entirely.

Evolution Revolution: Simple Plans is smaller in scope than book 1, Simple Machines. But there is a deepening of characterization as we get to know the animals better. There is one more book in the trilogy, Simple Lessons. I can't wait to see what Jack and his animal friends will get up to next.

Here's the cover for the next book. (Once again, I think the art work by Cathleen Daniels is exquisite.)


  1. I really enjoy Bennardo's Evolution Revolution series because of it's length, lovely illustrations, and the details about the animals in her stories. Rat was one of my favorites too.

    1. Exactly, Brenda. This series would be a wonderful classroom read-aloud for 4th or 5th graders.

  2. Love the idea of this story! Will have to read book 1 first. :) I also love illustrations too!


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