Book Review: Travels of an Extraordinary Hamster

Tales of an Extraordinary Hamster – Astrid Desbordes
(published by Gecko Press, June 2015)

Travels of an Extraordinary Hamster

Travels of an Extraordinary Hamster, a chapter book told entirely through speech bubbles, has been a big hit with both my boys; we’ve read it over and over again. We’ve come across Hamster and his friends before, having checked Reflections of a Solitary Hamster out of the library before.

Hamster is an incredibly selfish but very likeable character. Everything he does is driven by greed and self-purpose, but there’s still something endearing about him. His actions make us roll our eyes and shake our heads, yet we still love him. His friends put up with his self-obsession and they love him regardless. I’m a big fan of Hedgehog and Mole, and their burgeoning relationship, too.

The dialogue is great, and really funny. I can’t wait for the time when Tiny can read this himself, as the humour is right up his alley. Pauline Martin’s illustrations are colourful, simple and cute. Each animal is perfectly represented, and the backgrounds are kept to a minimum, meaning the characters and dialogue take centre stage.

Tales of an Extraordinary Hamster is going to be another favourite that will never make it onto the boys’ bookshelves, purely because it will be read every single day for a long time to come.

Thanks to Gecko Press for providing us with this review copy.

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Book Review: When I am Happiest

When I am Happiest – Rose Lagercrantz
(Published by Gecko Press, July 2015)

When I am Happiest

When I am Happiest is a beautiful tale of joy, sadness and friendship; it deals with a difficult subject in a graceful and accessible way, making it a pleasure to read. To be honest, I wasn’t sure whether Tiny would like it, but we sat down to read a couple of chapters together, and suddenly, we’d finished the whole book. He didn’t want me to stop, and I didn’t want to stop either.

The chapters are short, the sentences snappy. The pace is fast and it is interesting to read. I loved that it was a simple tale, yet Lagercrantz wasn’t afraid to challenge young readers by throwing in a few more interesting words and ideas. I liked that the characters didn’t just “ask”, but asked “questioningly”; this appealed to my love of words and my desire to encourage my boys to be voracious readers.

Each chapter is accompanied by Eva Eriksson’s simple line drawings. The illustrations are perfect, and convey so much emotion. At moments where children might not understand the seriousness of the story, the illustrations help them to understand what it going on.

When we’d finished reading When I am Happiest, Tiny and I talked about the story, and how it made us feel. I was surprised at how perceptive and articulate he was as he explained how he felt, and surprised at how emotional I felt too.

This is a beautiful book, aimed at five- to seven-year-olds, although I think it would appeal to older children (and adults) too.

Thank you to Gecko Press for providing this beauty for review purposes.