Friday, January 9, 2009

Surprises According to Humphrey by Betty G. Birney

Main Character: Humphrey, a golden hamster
Location: undefined
Time period: Contemporary
Genre: J Fiction, School

Humphrey the hamster returns in his fourth book of adventures as the classroom pet of room 26. We're coming to the end of the school year and there is plenty going on. I-Heard-That-Kirk brings in a hamster ball so Humphrey can roam around the classroom. (Nobody knows about the lock-that-doesn't-lock and how Humphrey does plenty of roaming on his own when no one is watching.) On his weekend stay at Wait-for-the-Bell-Garth's house, Humphrey goes on an unexpected roll down the hill in his ball and comes face to face with a curious cat. When Aldo the janitor comes to clean the classroom speaking in a language Humphrey doesn't understand and then is replaced by a stranger, Humphrey becomes convinced that Aldo has been kidnapped by aliens. Most worrying, Mrs. Brisbane hasn't decided whether or not she wants to come back to teach next year.

There is a lot of charm in this series of books which looks at classroom activities through the eyes of a classroom pet. I like his use of repetition for emphasis--things aren't just fun, they're FUN-FUN-FUN! I also like his definitions which close each chapter. A suprise is "something totally unexpected and unplanned for...[it] can be both good and bad, like a shiny balloon (a good thing) that suddenly pops and scares you (a bad thing)." Humphrey cares deeply about the children in his classroom and wants to help them with their problems. He also has the opportunity to watch the teacher and get to know her in a way that the students don't.

Surprises for Humphrey is on the 2009-2010 Texas Bluebonnet Award Nominee List.


Anonymous said...

I found your article on what you are eading very interesting. I especially liked the one on Humphrey the Hampster. This is the type of children's book my grandchildren want, and I will try to ensure they get it.
As well as loving all kids books, I am the published author of a book for younger kids, published in the US in December 08.
Maybe one day (I hope) you will review my book, as the opinions of people such as yourself really matter to me.
Irene J Harvey

smaileh said...

Thank you for your kind words. I'm glad to know that you're enjoying this blog.

I'm not familiar with your book, but I will keep my eyes open for it.

Thanks again