8 Fun Facts About Naked Mole Rat Saves the World
Author Karen Rivers is back with another humorous and heartfelt new novel, Naked Mole Rat Saves the World.
In this Brooklyn-set story, kit (with a small k) is dealing with a lot. She struggles with anxiety, which has taken on a new form ever since her friend Clem got into an acrobatics accident on national television. Now, when kit’s anxiety becomes too much to handle, she transforms into a naked mole rat.
While the story sprinkled with a bit of fantasy, the things that kit faces on a daily basis are very much things that lots of kids are dealing with every day. From changing friendships and the weirdness of growing up to anxiety struggles and family relationships, Naked Mole Rat Saves the World is very much a story of forgiveness, friendship, and discovering who are you.
Every page is filled with quirky characters you’ll absolutely adore. They’re imperfect and unique and pop right off the page. The little bursts of magic woven into the story are charming and fun, and this one easily slides into our list of favorite reads for the year.
Can Kit’s super-weird superpower save her world?
Kit-with-a-small-k is navigating middle school with a really big, really strange secret: When she’s stressed, she turns into a naked mole rat.
It first happened after kit watched her best friend, Clem, fall and get hurt during an acrobatic performance on TV. Since then, the transformations keep happening—whether kit wants them to or not. Kit can’t tell Clem about it, because after the fall, Clem just hasn’t been herself. She’s sad and mad and gloomy, and keeping a secret of her own: the real reason she fell.
A year after the accident, kit and Clem still haven’t figured out how to deal with all the ways they have transformed—both inside and out. When their secrets come between them, the best friends get into a big fight. Somehow, kit has to save the day, but she doesn’t believe she can be that kind of hero. Turning into a naked mole rat isn’t really a superpower. Or is it?
Naked Mole Rat Saves the World
AUTHOR: Karen Rivers
PUBLISHER: Algonquin Young Readers
DATE: October 15, 2019
We very much admire kit’s strength. Not her physical strength, but the strength it takes to be unapologetically true to who you are. kit is fearless in this way, and we think readers will be inspired by her bravery. No matter how hard things get or what people say, she never shies away from doing the things she loves. She rollerskates and blows bubbles and does her best to make it through each day.
We’re delighted to share that author Karen Rivers has put together 8 fun facts to take you beyond the pages of the story. Get to know more about kit, her mom, Clem, and the author’s real-world anxiety struggles that inspired her to write this humorous and heartfelt story.
Author Karen Rivers Shares 8 Fun Facts About Naked Mole Rat Saves the World:
- FACT #1:
I believe in magic. In the book, the main character kit’s mother owns a hair salon and her co-worker, Samara, concocts magic spells. She isn’t a witch, at least, not exactly. But maybe, just maybe, her spells work. The spells in the book aren’t “real” but they also ARE “real” in that a lot of people believe that certain leaves or oils or scents can make us feel calmer or braver or sleepier.
I believe that what you believe is what is true: if you think a certain scent dabbed on your wrist will give you strength, then it does! And if you have to poke a lemon with a needle so that your forgiveness spell works, then you should probably get a lemon and give it a good poke. Belief is the most powerful magic of all.
- FACT #2:
I have an anxiety disorder. My daughter has an anxiety disorder. Believe it or not, even my dog has an anxiety disorder. It’s not always easy when everyone’s anxiety peaks at the same time, but we are okay. When I wrote this book, I was thinking about how anxiety can look so different in different people.
For kit’s mom, her anxiety is attached to being famous and to how everyone always wants something from her, something more than she’s able to give, so she shrinks her world down to a manageable size. For kit, her anxiety makes her run run run and even to transform into a version of herself that she doesn’t recognize as human. Anxiety usually invites one of three reactions: Fight, flight, or freeze. kit’s mom freezes. kit is more comfortable with flight.
Everyone with anxiety is so very strong: You get strong when you’re carrying something as big and awkward and heavy as anxiety around with you every day. If I could flex my anxiety muscle, it would be the most powerful muscle in my body! And all that strength is also very useful – it’s useful when it comes to being compassionate towards other people, whose anxiety might come out as “fight”, for example. It’s useful when it comes to writing because anxiety is always observing and noticing all the details. And it’s definitely useful when it comes to parenting anxious kids. (And dogs, too).
- FACT #3:
Watching TV talent shows, like America’s Got Talent, almost ALWAYS makes me cry. I can’t get through a whole episode! The people on these shows have so much riding on their success or failure on that stage – too much, maybe. They’ve worked so very hard to get to where they are. While I cry happily for the people who win, I also cry for the people who don’t win, whose hopes and dreams are publicly dashed.
When I was writing this book, I was also thinking about what happens to the people who don’t just fail to win, but the ones who experience some other kind of disaster, the kind that doesn’t necessarily air on TV at all. What does their “after” look like? I decided to imagine one possibility, and that’s what happens to Clem.
- FACT #4:
To do the research about Kensington, Brooklyn, where this novel takes place, I spent a lot of time walking around on Google Maps. I also have a good friend who lives there, and she helped me map out the train and bus routes that kit would take to get to various different places. I even got her to describe how the trains smelled and sounded and felt!
The actual places in the book like the school and restaurants and animal shelter and the kids’ apartments and houses are made up, but they were based on real places that I found by going for “walks” on the Internet.
- FACT #5:
Naked mole rats are not just fascinating to us because they are so unusual looking, they are also fascinating to scientists for a lot of surprising reasons. For example, naked mole rats don’t get cancer. They also don’t age the same way that other mammals age. Their skin, even though it looks like it would be very thin and weak, is actually very strong. You can pour acid on a naked mole rat, and it won’t burn like our skin would. And naked mole rats are one of the only animal species that can run backwards as fast as they can run forward! It’s a strange skill, but maybe comes in handy if you live most of your life in dark tunnels. They also live like bees, in a society with a queen.
Scientists are mostly interested in their lack of aging and seeming immunity to sicknesses that most other animals are vulnerable to, but who knows what else they might teach us? You never would know to look at them that they are so interesting to science! But then again, I think you probably shouldn’t judge anyone or anything by appearances, don’t you?
- FACT #6:
When I first started writing this book, I read the work-in-progress at the end of each day to my daughter. The parts I was not sure about, like the man in the Batman mask and the Jonestown cult were the parts that she was the most drawn to. She kept wanting to know what happened next, so I knew I had to keep writing those parts to find out. I think kids are interested in a lot of things that we adults try to keep hidden from them because we don’t want them to know about the darker side of humanity. But sometimes only having part of the information is worse than having the whole story. Clem finds out that her grandfather died at Jonestown in the book, so naturally she wants to know more. They were the things my daughter wanted to know, too!
- FACT #7:
When I was kit and Clem’s age, I had an orange “portable” record player just like the one in the book. (It had to be plugged in, so it wasn’t “portable” like music is now!) My best friend and I would plug the record player in outside on the sundeck of her house and we would listen to Abba records and sing along as loudly as we could. Sometimes, we’d put on roller skates and roller skate and sing at the same time. I decided more than anything, kit needed my old record player, and she and her best friend needed to sing. And, of course, she needed roller skates!
- FACT #8:
Clem suffers from depression. kit has anxiety. kit’s mom has agoraphobia. A lot of times, much like the man in the Batman mask and Jonestown, people don’t feel comfortable talking to kids about anxiety and depression, but if you think about it, that’s not entirely fair. I think books where the characters have anxiety and depression are really really really important (SO important that my next book, BirdFish), is also about anxiety! More crucially, I think books where the characters have anxiety and depression aren’t just books ABOUT anxiety and depression; they can be funny or weird or scary or sad or exciting or any combination of those things.
One of the characters in my last book, A Possibility of Whales, says all the time, “Everybody isn’t all one thing.” And I believe that to be true with all my heart. People with anxiety and/or depression are…just people. They can have amazing adventures and solve mysteries and make you laugh and save the day, too. We are all so much more than just one single label.
Naked Mole Rat is now available from Algonquin Young Readers. Pop on a pair of rollerskates and head to your favorite bookstore or library to pick up a copy. In need of more reads tackling real issues with humor and heart? We think you’ll love The Paris Project by Donna Gephart!