Welcome to more of my children’s book reviews. I hope you enjoy my choice of books and the reviews of them. Please don’t forget to scroll down the page and read all of them!
Children’s Book of the Week – The World According to Humphrey by Betty G. Birney
Available on Amazon as an eBook $4.66 | Paperback $5.39 | Hardcover $12.08 | Audio $17.99
When I first opened this book, I wasn’t expecting anything quite so good. What a wonderful surprise. It’s funny, sometimes moving, very entertaining and filled with the sort of wisdom both children and adults will surely benefit from. A great little book! Please read my full review below.
Written from Humphrey the hamster’s perspective, The World According to Humphrey tells the story of his ‘liberation’ from a pet store to his life in the classroom, where he resides as a classroom pet in Room 26 at Longfellow School. Humphrey is totally besotted with Ms. Mac, his kind-hearted rescuer, not knowing that her post at the school is only a temporary one. Inevitably the day arrives when she must leave and the dreaded and hostile Mrs Brisbane returns. Unfortunately for Humphrey, the stone-hearted Mrs Brisbane “can’t stand rodents”.
Following the departure of his beloved Ms. Mac, Humphrey is left to go home each weekend with a different child or member of staff, an arrangement which changes his and their lives. Each home he visits is not without its share of problems; a mother cannot speak English, the Head Teacher is unable to command the same respect from his own children as he enjoys at school, the TV in one household is never switched off, and another child’s mother is sick. Humphrey puts his thinking cap on and helps these families to resolve their various issues. Needless to say, he is much-loved by all who meet him and even the ones who don’t take to him straight away are eventually won over. While all this is taking place, Humphrey is slipping in and out of his cage, by opening the “lock-that-doesn’t-lock”, and at the same time managing to get an education.
I really did like this book. The humour is intelligent and innocent. I particularly like the way Humphrey has named the children – after the teacher’s commands – “Repeat-That-Please-Richie”, “Stop-Giggling-Gail” and “Pay-Attention-Art” are just some of them – very clever. This is fast-paced, witty and highly entertaining. Humphrey’s understanding of his human counterparts and their problems is refreshing and insightful, ranging from the emotions of falling in love to the despair of having a sick parent, and being reticent about speaking out in class because of a language barrier. In most cases, as in life, the children’s behaviour in school reflects their situation at home, which here is sensitively dealt with.
This is an extremely enjoyable, well-written book which is loaded with lessons, all subtly woven in. “After all, you can learn a lot about yourself by getting to know another species” being Humphrey’s favourite dictum. There is also a great deal to be learnt about caring for hamsters. Humphrey himself is adorable, compassionate, perceptive and funny. A great book which I highly recommend. (5 stars)
The World According to Humphrey would be best suited to ages 7 to 9
Other Books I Have Reviewed
There Are No Such Things As Dragons – Or Are There? By V. J. Wells
Available on Amazon as an eBook $3.19 and in Paperback $3.55
Amy, the tale’s protagonist, is eight years old when she is taken by her father to spend the summer with Aunt Morag and Uncle Angus, who live in ‘a real castle’ in Scotland. After arriving at their destination and eating dinner together, Uncle Angus lets slip that there may be a ‘wee dragon’ somewhere in the castle.
This is a captivating story of friendship and trust. Amy learns she can ‘speak dragon’ and how easy it is to form lasting friendships. It carries just the right amount of suspense to keep children on the edge without scaring them too much. The illustrations are delightful, the book is well-written, the descriptions are well-thought out, and it is short enough to keep the interest of all, whether reading or listening.
I enjoyed the storyline and the setting (Scotland being the perfect location, of course, for dragons). The story is quite poignant, since it involves two lonely subjects, and the ending is endearing; as are the characters. I read this to the youngest member of the family who is already asking for more of the same (are there any children who are NOT intrigued by stories of dragons?), so hopefully there will be more of the adventures of Amy and Argyll soon. Highly recommended (5 stars)
There Are No Such Things As Dragons – Or Are There? would be best suited to ages 4 to 7
Magical Stories by Annemarie Nikolaus
Available on Amazon as an eBook $2.96 and in Paperback $4.74
Magical Stories is a book consisting of four short stories involving magicians, ghosts, animals, doing what is right, Santa Claus and more. Although one or two minor bits suggest English is not the first language of the author, it adds to the charm and I would consider this book intelligently and thoughtfully written. The vocabulary is excellent, though not geared toward the very young child. These are proper ‘fablish’ bedtime stories, like the ones many of us read as children – and many of the ones I read had also been translated into English. The tales are endearing and absorbing, and do indeed feel magical. My favourite was The Christmas Story with its lesson on consumerism and how Christmas has lost its true meaning. Well done to author Annemaria Nikolaus for offering something so utterly enchanting and beguiling, and refreshingly different. (5 stars)
Magical Stories would be best suited to ages 9 years and upwards
The Adventures of Brackenbelly – All in a Day’s Work by Gareth Baker
Available on Amazon as an eBook $1.53 and in Paperback $5.53
The much put upon Isomee Hogg-Bottom lives with her despicable uncle at Hogg-Bottom farm. Here she is happily going about her chores one day when a stranger, a legendary uma, arrives on their doorstep in the hope of buying one the uncle’s, again legendary, flying chostri. However, the uma – Brackenbelly, finds the uncle is not willing to sell him a chostri unless he is willing to help him in return. At night things have been happening outside the barn, indicating someone or something may be trying to get to the chostri on the inside of the barn. Whatever is afoot sounds extremely frightening and dangerous and the lazy uncle is not willing to investigate the matter himself. From here the reader is taken into the even darker side of the uncle’s nature and the good and kind side of the uma, as the adventure begins.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is a short chapter book. Each chapter ending is equipped with its own cliffhanger urging the reader to continue. As the story progresses we learn more about Isomee’s relationship with her uncle and just how loathsome he really is (nothing here unsuitable for children – he’s just as mean as they get). We also see how deeply intelligent and compassionate the uma is and watch as his friendship with Isomee develops.
This is very well-written with excellent character descriptions, including the one of the chostri. It’s exciting, original and imaginative. Since this is the only one I have read, I am assuming in the next one we will learn of Isomee’s fate. Highly recommended.(5 stars)
The Adventures of Brackenbelly – All in a Day’s Work would be best suited to ages 10 plus
All my reviews can be found on Amazon and, where possible, Goodreads.
Book Covers with links can also be found on my Pinterest Board – ‘Books I Have Reviewed’
Please note: Authors frequently offer their books at lower prices, and often they are free. These prices were correct at the time of publishing, but it is worth checking for price changes.