Wednesday 1 February 2012

Humphrey the Superhero Hamster!

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.

As ever, text in red contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more.


Karen M said...

Humphrey sounds great! Kids picture books are the best reading. I bet the class will be a good one.

Ms Sparrow said...

My all-time favorite children's book is Dr. Suess's "Horton Hatches the Egg". I puddle up every time I read it!

shoreacres said...

Children's literature is quite a strange country to me - I grew up long before Maurice Sendak, and almost before Dr. Seuss. Luckily, I've been introduced to them, and whenever I hear something for kids recommended highly, I give it a go. I believe I'll look for Humphrey at the library.

A side note: I once worked in a town called Rio Vista in the Sacramento River Delta in California. Humphrey the Hump-Backed Whale made his way all the way up there from the ocean, and it was a heck of a time getting him out of there and back home. But they did it!

Carol Steel said...

Sounds like a fascinating course. I'm envious.

Cuby said...

I've had class hamsters in my career as a primary teacher and they would relate to Humphrey I feel sure. Charity shop or library search next time soon. Thank for telling me about this.

Charlotte said...

Are you going to be writing some children's stories? I would love to one day.

So Humphrey the hamster! (My Humphrey is not at all sure about this...)

Actually we have one of those books around somewhere - I bought it in a 3 for 2 at Waterstones for Mike's daughter last Christmas. I hadn't really looked at it but may pick it up now you have recommended it.

I did lots of children's literature courses at uni (I did sociology and education) - loved them. Just wish I could do something like that again now, now I am 15+ years older and think I would appreciate it so much more...


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