The Great Hamster Massacre by Katie Davies

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The Great Hamster Massacre by Katie Davies

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A quirky and fun little read, with a lot of serious issues dealt with very lightly. The start of what looks to be a very enjoyable series.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 128 Date: January 2010
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Books
ISBN: 978-1847385956

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Meet Anna. Rather than write the usual staid what-I-did-in-my-holidays report for school, she is taking the time to tell us about her pet issues over the summer, from recalling the Old Cat, and the horror that is the New Cat, to the New Rabbit down the road, and her own demands for a hamster or two. There are family secrets to be revealed relating to hamsters of old, parents to argue with, and finally a trip to the pet shop - and that's just the start of Anna's troubles.

This is a very light read offering a lot of depth. It takes the reader to a lot of places typical diary-styled novels don't, with quite a serious look at pet death, the power of prayer, and the advantages of making lists. But the delight is that the reader won't notice any moralising, preaching or heavy-handedness, as the style is so exuberant and apt we can swing from delightful comedy to the birds and the bees in one sentence.

I won't try to mimic the author, but she writes wholeheartedly in the style of our heroine's diary, with lots of long sentences and a lot of ands and inappropriately timed snacking and horrid neighbours and parents who speak in BOLD CAPITAL LETTERS and so on. Whoops, I didn't know how catching - and catchy - it was.

There are quirky neighbours, and some mildly chancy bits regarding her trips to church, but the bulk of the book is gearing up to Anna and her younger brother (he who is responsible for said snacking) getting their hamsters, and then turning detective with what follows. And if their pester-power tactics on their parents is not completely recognisable to the target audience (of something like 6 to 9s), then the falling in and out with the best friend next door, and a lot of more real life incident, surely is.

We also get a snapshot of the next in the series, which for one does not disappoint me. I'm already looking forward to it - I have a soft-spot for diary-type books and this one hit it. The strong sense of comedy timing inherent in the realism of the tale and the telling means this thread of animal-based stories looks like being a good success. The busy layout of the pages when the illustrator gets a corner or two to call her own helps the pace, and this is a book that will definitely appeal to the right reader - and potentially some reluctant ones. From my point of view, it was the big dose of serious reality in among the brilliant levity of the narration, that meant this could only get a high Bookbag rating and recommendation.

Plus it encourages the correct use of dictionaries, which is only to the good.

The Great Hamster Massacre won the Waterstone's Children's Book Prize.

I must thank the kind Simon and Schuster people for my review copy.

A similar book covering a very different school holiday is the highly enjoyable Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days by Jeff Kinney.

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Buy The Great Hamster Massacre by Katie Davies at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Great Hamster Massacre by Katie Davies at


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