Review Detail

Middle Grade Fiction 130
Wisdom from a hamster
Overall rating
 
4.3
Plot
 
4.0
Characters
 
4.0
Writing Style
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
What worked:
Humphrey is a classroom hamster who makes observations about what happens with the students. The author describes a “normal” elementary classroom so young readers can connect with what’s happening. The classroom becomes a little community and Humphrey’s thoughts keep readers informed about any issues. A wonderful balance is found between the impossibility of students understanding the squeaks of a hamster and Humphrey’s central role among the students. The story is told through Humphrey’s eyes but he’s also able to write small, anonymous messages that he can leave for others to find. Of course, no one in the classroom knows that Humphrey has a journal hidden inside his cage.
The book addresses many different problems that may arise in school classrooms. Some students don’t like reading orally which is a common fear of many young readers. The kids study for spelling tests which Humphrey enjoys taking too. He is worried as the story moves along when the other class pet, a frog named Og, begins to act sick. A major conflict occurs when a student’s grandmother loses her pet dog and the class decides to help find it. All of the problems in the book will be relatable to young readers so they’ll be able to make easy connections to the book.
Throughout the book, the chapters end with Humphrey’s thoughts about happiness based on what he sees in the room. There are lessons about working together, persevering, and sharing feelings with others. Talking to friends can make people happier and make sad times easier to handle. The chapters themselves describe the hamster’s confusion about some things that make kids happy. He doesn’t understand why they get so excited about the new dog that’s helping them read out loud. It has a mouthful of sharp teeth that Humphrey finds frightening.
What didn’t work as well:
Proficient middle-grade readers may not appreciate a less challenging narrative. The text is easy to understand and the characters explain any uncommon vocabulary or concepts. There aren’t any dramatic twists and most of the student problems are fairly normal. However, kids like animals, and the hamster, frog, and dogs play large parts in the plot.
The final verdict:
This book is best suited for middle-elementary students. Humphrey is an adorable main character as the author artfully blends the worlds of reality and imagination. This book can be enjoyed by any young reader and I recommend you give it a shot.
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