Hamster Magic

Book Reviews

Hamster Magic.

Jonell, Lynne (author). Illustrated by Brandon Dorman.
Sept. 2010. 112p. Random, library edition, $15.99 (9780375966606). Grades 1-3.
REVIEW. First published December 1, 2010 (Booklist).

A couple of steps up from an easy reader, Jonell’s latest book will appeal to those who prefer their fantasy stories furry and friendly. It follows four siblings over the course of a day and a very long night as they deal with a wish gone wrong. The Willow kids (ages six and up) have just moved from their suburban neighborhood to a house in the country, and they’re having some trouble adjusting. But those troubles seem simple after Celia, the youngest, turns into a giant hamster when she wishes “to be big.” Dorman’s black-and-white illustrations are appealing, and Jonell handles the children’s problem with a light hand, finding humor in how they hide Celia’s appearance and tremendous stores of energy from their parents. After a night of adventure in which the children sneak out to find the Great Hamster and undo the magic, all ends well. And the Willow kids are sure that next time, they will better handle all of the new rural magic around them. — Abby Nolan

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books:
Jonell, Lynne.  Hamster Magic; illus. by Brandon Dorman.  Random House, 2010.  103p.  (Stepping Stone Books)
Library ed. ISBN 978-0-375-96660-6 $15.99
Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-375-86660-9 $12.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-0-375-89672-9 $12.99         R Gr. 2-3

Having just moved into an old house in the country, siblings Abner, Tate, Derek, and Celia Willow find a hamster in the basement, whom they stick in their former hamster’s cage and name Hammy. Hammy is no ordinary hamster: not only can he talk, he can grant wishes. Of course, magic’s always a dangerous thing in the hands of the unaccustomed, and little Celia’s wish to be big goes awry, turning her into a gigantic hamster and leaving Hammy all out of magic. The four kids (three kids and one giant hamster, actually), hoping to de-hamsterize Celia, venture out into the night to meet the Great Hamster. It’s an unusual premise, to be sure, but there is something both appealing and remarkably nostalgic in this furry tale of cooperation among siblings and magical animals interacting with the human world. At the core of the slim novel is the relationship of the four siblings; even the Great Hamster commends them on being such supportive “litter-mates.” Fans of animal fiction will revel in Celia’s nighttime antics, as she is unable to stop herself from acting like a hamster, running like mad, performing acrobatics, and gnawing everything in site. Dorman’s black-and-white illustrations, partnering sturdy lines with soft gray shading, provide abundant imagery for the nocturnal adventures, and his girl-turned-hamster has a remarkably endearing expression. This is a sweet, simple narrative that will appeal to fans of Marion Dane Bauer and those who like their animal tales with a touch of magic.  HM

Horn Book Guide:
Jonell, Lynne Hamster Magic
105 pp. Random (Random House Children’s Books) 2010. ISBN 978-0-375-86660-9 LE ISBN 978-0-375-96660-6
(3) 1-3 Illustrated by Brandon Dorman.
Wishes are not to be taken lightly, especially when they’re granted by a hamster. Tired of being the youngest child, Celia wishes to be big. Humorous problems arise for Celia’s siblings as they try to hide their sister-turned-giant-hamster from their parents. Dorman’s drawings of Celia as she discovers her new hamster abilities will tickle young readers.


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