Written by the same author as the popular holiday tale [amazon_link id=”0395389496″ target=”_blank” ]The Polar Express[/amazon_link], [amazon_link id=”0547315821″ target=”_blank” ]The Misadventures of Sweetie Pie[/amazon_link] by Chris Van Allsburg is a sweet book about the life of a pet hamster.
From School Library JournalPreS-Gr 2—Master storyteller Van Allsburg’s latest children’s book is about a frustrated hamster. He is bought by a girl and given the name Sweetie Pie, but she quickly grows tired of him and tries to sell him. As Sweetie Pie is passed from child to child, he yearns for the freedom of nature and a life uncaged. But his caretakers are unfortunately negligent; he’s overfed, frightened by a large dog, abused inside an exercise ball, and finally forgotten in the snow. Children looking for a cute story about a misunderstood hamster will find this title bittersweet, in the vein of The Velveteen Rabbit. The story might serve as a cautionary tale for children who need lessons about how to treat their pets, but the more dismal scenes make it less than ideal for storytime. Van Allsburg’s backgrounds and designs feel much more simplistic than previous works, and his normal sepia color scheme has been traded in for bright colors and limited shadow, keeping the book’s tone as lighthearted as possible given its serious nature. Although a departure from his other masterpieces like Jumanji (1991) and Polar Express (1985, both Houghton Harcourt), Misadventures of Sweetie Pie is an additional purchase for most collections.—Peter Blenski, Greenfield Public Library, WI
I do think this story is great for families to read when they are considering getting a pet. It is a big decision and should be a lifelong commitment. For Sweetie Pie, it isn’t so. From home to home to classroom, he is never fully content, as are his owners, until he comes to live in the wild with the squirrels. I disagree with the above review that he is “frustrated”. I think he takes it in stride.
His cage is forgotten by the student who is supposed to watch him over holiday break. His fate is uncertain, and my son was worried when we read this part. This “dismal scene” is a good reminder about responsibility in pet ownership, so I think it appropriate to the story.
In the end, Sweetie Pie is happily living with squirrels. I wonder how realistic this part is…can a hamster live in the wild with squirrels in the winter? How domesticated are they?
The tale is not only cautionary for children but for parents too. Often children are given small pets as gifts, only to find out that the pets are noisy, smelly, and not the cute, cuddly friends the parents and children imagined. This book also touches on the fact that keeping an animal in a cage is inhumane.
Skip the hamster….get a dog 🙂
The publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s corporate and social responsibility report describes what they are doing to make the world a better place. Two key areas for those of us concerned about the environment and our children’s health are:
Our 2014 Paper Procurement and Usage Policy, deemed industry-leading by the Rainforest Action Network, outlines HMH’s commitment to responsible and reduced environmental impact, including specific goals to achieve by 2018.
Green Apple Initiative
Together with the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), HMH is working to provide more than two million children with access to safer, healthier, and better learning environments.
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