Friday, May 4, 2012

The Great Hamster Massacre

The Great Hamster Massacre (Great Critter Capers #1)
Katie Davies, illustrated by Hannah Shaw
Beach Lane Books, 2010
$12.99, Hardcover
February 27th, 2012

Genre: Humor, Realistic
Age: 8+
Description: Anna and her younger brother Tom really, really want a pet. They decide to ask their mother one more time for a hamster. She refuses again and they discover from their grandmother that when their mom was young she had two hamsters that were accidentally killed. However, they finally break down their mother’s resistance a few weeks later and they get to go get two hamsters. Turns out they were a boy and a girl and babies are born. A few nights later, Anna wakes up in the morning to discover the Great Hamster Massacre—one adult is missing, the babies are gone, and the other adult is injured and on the brink of death. Anna and Tom begin an investigation into who or what killed their hamsters.
Opinion: The pacing of this humorous story goes quickly. It is a pretty thick book but it is presented in a diary format with lots of illustrations throughout. While the book is aimed at eight-year-old readers and up, the main characters themselves act quite young for their ages (seven and four respectively) which sometimes makes the story a little preposterous—the characters seem super young yet the language sometimes is clearly an adult trying to speak like a younger child and it’s odd that they are allowed to roam around without a parent accompanying them or even telling their parents where they are going. I am happy to hear that the book has turned into a series of animal-esque mysteries, with the accompanying books about a rabbit and a cat. While hilarious, the book does have some super serious moments too—Nana dies halfway through the book and mom avoids acknowledging her death and equates it with the deaths of the hamsters. The children get upset when the dad carelessly tossed the bodies in the trash so, in an act that might make some adults highly disturbed due to the nature in which the act is vividly described, the children actually dig the bodies out of the trash, take them out, touch them, and prepare them for a proper burial in the backyard. While it might seem morbid, I feel that it accurately describes the natural curiosity that children have toward death and find it to be a touching moment.

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