Sunday, September 12, 2010

Review of Hamster Magic by Lynne Jonell

Jonell, Lynne. Hamster Magic. Illustrated by Brandon Dorman. Random House, 2010.

Any reader of fantasy and fairy tales knows that if one is granted a magic wish, one must be very careful what one wishes for! Try to quell the greed (or you might end up with sausages stuck to your nose) and the desperate desire to thwart death (in fact, just don't make wishes with monkeys' paws) - and always, always think before you wish.

The four Willow siblings have just moved to a house in the country for a year and are feeling just a little miffed about it. It might be better if they had a dog, but their parents have made it clear that they can't have a big animal until they can learn to take care of a small one. Unfortunately, their track record is not great, seeing as how the kids are now on their third hamster (Hammy the Third), and he has now escaped only days after they discovered him in their new cellar, chowing down on dog food.

Not only does Hammy turn up again, but he turns out to be a talking, wish-granting hamster. And Celia, the youngest Willow, makes a rash wish that turns her into a hamster the size of a large dog. During their night-time visit to the Great Hamster, who just might be able to reverse the spell, the Willow kids learn that the land all around their new house is very unique indeed, as are the burrowing animals that inhabit it.

This is a short and breezy fantasy a la Edward Eager, perfect for kids who have just learned to read with confidence and want a "real" chapter book. The two sisters and two brothers are sketched in with just enough details to be able to distinguish them from one another, and Celia is a most realistic hamster, filled with a zest for life (as long as life is filled with plenty of eating and running).

The illustrations in my advanced reader copy were incomplete, but the sketches are fun and endearing. My only quibble is that the hamsters are always depicting standing up on hind legs, even when moving around. Although hamsters do stand up in order to get a better view or to reach some food, they do their prodigious scurrying on all fours. Yes, I KNOW this is a fantasy! Still, hamsters are much too sensible, even magical ones, to try to walk in such an uncomfortable way.

Below is Tina, snagging some leftover breakfast cereal. That girl does love her vittles.


  1. Although a giant hamster lacks immediate appeal, I shall look out for this on the strength of your comments....

  2. i have read it and it sucks