Friendship According to Humphrey, by Betty Birney (ages 8-10)
Humphrey the hamster is not only the class pet of Room 26, but also a problem solver. Every weekend he gets to go home with one of the children from the class, each of whom is encountering some kind of problem: fighting with their friend, being bullied, or just being shy because they are the new kid in class. Humphrey helps each of the kids find a resolution in his own unique way, and as he does, he also learns a valuable lesson about friendship that helps him to overcome his jealousy of another class pet, Og the Frog.
Told in a first person narrative style by Humphrey himself, this story is cute and clever. Author Betty Birney gives a full characterization to Humphrey, who not only “speaks (humans hear it as “squeak, squeak”), but who also comments on the world around him and cares very much for each and every character. Each of the problems that the children encounter are mostly resolved within a chapter of the book, though there are a few that take longer. This makes the book a perfect chapter-at-a-time if you want to read it aloud.
Friendship According to Humphrey, by Betty G. Birney; 2008; Penguin Books; $5.99; ages 8-10
Chicken Dance by Tammi Sauer; illustrated by Dan Santat (ages 3-6)
Marge and Lola are desperate to win the farm talent show, especially since the grand prize is tickets to see Elvis Poultry! But what talent can two chickens have that would be really unique? They try a number of different things, from flying to juggling flaming batons to high wire acts, without success. Finally, on the night of the talent show, the chickens figure they will just be themselves. While they don’t wind up winning the show, they do wind up meeting Elvis Poultry due to their rocking act that had the super star ”all shook up.”
A funny new entry into the feathered foul genre, Chicken Dance contains full page color illustrations of the chickens’ antics. Clever little touches in the artwork add humor, such as the animal judges holding up their score cards and a goat wearing a rainbow wig. Elvis Poultry is created in all his bejeweled jumpsuit glory. Those familiar with Elvis Presley will get a chuckle or two out of this characterization. Don’t miss out on Poultry’s play list on the back of the dust jacket, which lists tunes like “(Keep Away from the) Hound Dog,” and “My Wing Around Your Neck.” A funny read for any hen, farm, or dance aficionado!
Chicken Dance, by Tammi Sauer; illustrated by Dan Santat; 2009; Sterling Publishing; $14.95; ages 3-6