Gustavson joins the rescue operation with close-ups of rats rendered in naturalistic detail but looking more inquisitive than feral, sporting large pink ears and whiskery snouts. Some of the city settings are picturesquely grimy, but there are no dead creatures or images more disturbing than, in one scene, a white lab rat and a researcher in surgical garb locking eyes. On the contrary, another illustration even features a rat leaning in from the edge of the page to peer up at viewers, and a closing portrait gallery of selected rat species is equally fetching.
Few animals are as maligned as rats, something mammal specialist Lunde knows well. “Dirty rats. Their beady eyes and naked tails make us scream. Eek! Aargh! Yikes!” he writes as a frightened woman in hair curlers tries to sweep rats off her apartment’s fire escape...Gustavson’s typically lush oil paintings do their part to help sway opinions—his sewer rats come across as intelligent, curious, and even adorable.