One of the perks of being a tutor for the University of Edinburgh's Office of Lifelong Learning is that I get to attend one evening class a year for free! This year I'm doing a class on writing Children's Fiction, tutored by the brilliant and inspiring Janis Mackay. (I'd definitely recommend this class to all writers, whether you're an experienced writer of children's fiction or even if you think you don't really want to write children's fiction but just want general inspiration for your writing).
Of course as part of the course we need to read children's fiction. Janis has recommended the Humphrey books by Betty G Birney. Recently I picked up Friendship according to Humphrey in a second hand shop and read it immediately.
Humphrey is a school classroom hamster who gets to go home with a different pupil every weekend. He has been recently joined in the classroom by Og the Frog, who he finds it difficult to understand. Not a problem he has with people! Humphrey watches and listens from his cage and finds ways to help the pupils and staff to solve their problems in the classroom, on the school bus and at the pupils' homes. He is a wonderful character, engaging and thoughtful, clever and observant. He's even ready to admit to his own faults!
This term the class are learning about poetry. Humphrey of course worries about the lack of words that rhyme with Humphrey or hamster and the large number of words that rhyme with frog! He even writes his own poetry (in his sleeping quarters with a broken pencil he found).
This is a wonderful book, full of insights into life, with pet care tips seamlessly woven into the narrative. And yes, Humphrey and Og eventually become friends!
I'm now looking forward to reading the other 6 books in the series!
Friendship According to Humphrey by Betty G Birney published by Faber Kids.
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