School According to Humphrey by Betty G Birney

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School According to Humphrey by Betty G Birney

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: Humphrey the class hamster is still as brilliant as ever, as is his froggy friend, but this book both moves the series on and stays too true to past patterns.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 176 Date: January 2011
Publisher: FaberChildren's Books
ISBN: 978-0571255412

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After six near-perfect books' worth of adventures in Room 26, the class pet Humphrey the hamster faces a nightmare at the start of term. The entire pupil population has changed, and all his friends he's got to know and love (and be loved by) have been replaced by a new intake. Here are the absurdly tall and the unfortunately short, both with the same first name; here is the girl in a wheelchair pestered by an over-attentive helper. Can Humphrey solve all their problems - as he usually does - and, is the biggest problem of all the fact that his old friends no longer have a classroom pet?

Perhaps it is a little churlish of me to point out, but at this, the seventh time of asking, this series is not as great as before. Any reader, especially those returning happily to these books, will most probably see the friendship problems in the room, and guess that between the teacher and Humphrey, they will get sorted (if never quite how). Which unusually only leaves one BIG-BIG-BIG mystery to these pages.

Still, the writing is able to continue in its exemplary manner. The way Humphrey's character comes across, as a fully-thinking (and poetry-writing) animal is just as immediate and as cleverly done as are all the humans who will carry this book beyond into a new cycle, from the ever-late boy to the girl with issues about remembering homework.

With all that on board we can possibly forgive the failings here. It is a transitional book, and the new classroom will be very immediate to its target audience, for whom this will still remain compelling, entertaining and fondly thought of. It's just a surprise to see myself type 'failings' in relation to this series, and despite her usual brilliance, Ms Birney has somehow stuck to her pattern a little too much here, and left the more astute fan a little short-changed.

I must thank the kind people at Faber for my review copy.

A great-value way to see the glories of the series can be found with the 3-in-1, Humphrey's Great-Great-Great Book of Stories. The reluctant reader will also be absorbed with The Wombles at Work by Elizabeth Beresford and its kin, for more industrial little charmers.

Buy School According to Humphrey by Betty G Birney at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy School According to Humphrey by Betty G Birney at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy School According to Humphrey by Betty G Birney at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy School According to Humphrey by Betty G Birney at Amazon.com.


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