Travels of an Extraordinary Hamster by Astrid Desbordes and Pauline Martin

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Travels of an Extraordinary Hamster by Astrid Desbordes and Pauline Martin

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Category: Emerging Readers
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: It might be well worth visiting this unique world, but at the same time it may well be over your heads – I can't make out whether it's laudable or just daft.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 128 Date: June 2015
Publisher: Gecko Press
ISBN: 9781927271834

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Meet Hamster. He's a bit curt with his so-called friends, the other animals in the Clearing – Mole, Snail, Ant, Bear, Hedgehog, Rabbit and Squirrel. He demands one of them build him a spaceship. He is far too dismissive of another's attempts at writing a thousand-page novel. But considering he doesn't really get on with anything and anyone, there is no chance of him joining in when they all go to meet the Bear's Arctic cousin, is there?

This Hamster certainly is an extraordinary one. He's quite quixotic, perfectly picaresque – and probably as reliable as the proverbial chocolate teapot. Filling his diary pages with untruths, and never actually known to land on the moon as he attests, he comes across as a belligerent liar, and someone who the other animals suffer because they know no better, being just perfectly friendly (and more, in some instances here) simply because of their nature.

And as for nature – you have to question the nature of Hamster in acting like he does, but you also have to question this book's own nature. Is it for the very young, as the twenty-or-thirty words per page would imply? Is it for the reluctant reader, taking on an unusual tale in two- or four-page chapters, presented with a wide-angle eye to the chapter heading pages, but in a very flat, two-dimensional comic strip form elsewhen?

Is it, otherwise, only for the adult seeking an incredibly arch and unusual take on the children's story? I caught the worm on that hook and it's still in my mouth, for I cannot help but think this book is too surreal, too unusual and the character too rarefied for the young to get a lot out of it. How many so completely unreliable narrators like Hamster will they have come across at this stage in their reading lives? Not many, for sure. I know we have had the Tao of Piglet and so on, but the gnomic utterances and sarcasm of some of the characters here are just too dry and unusual for what the target audience would appear to be. And I still don't know why there are penguins in the Arctic…

Seldom have books come along that have divided my opinion so completely, made me so unsure both of their intent and their qualities. This will smack of dryness for the right reader, but I think that to get that you'd have to be a bit too old to read this safely in public. It might go down well with those under ten who take on books looking like this with ease – but the point is they won't have come across anything exactly like this. For that merit I think we can certainly mention the book as being here, and will happily encourage experimentation – especially with this being such a brief experience to try – but we can't be sure anyone will take to it with much enthusiasm.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

The Day No One Was Angry by Toon Tellegen and Marc Boutavant (illustrator) is another example of this publisher finding the more unusual young reads from anywhere on this planet. That kind of thing really should be encouraged.

Buy Travels of an Extraordinary Hamster by Astrid Desbordes and Pauline Martin at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Travels of an Extraordinary Hamster by Astrid Desbordes and Pauline Martin at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Travels of an Extraordinary Hamster by Astrid Desbordes and Pauline Martin at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Travels of an Extraordinary Hamster by Astrid Desbordes and Pauline Martin at Amazon.com.

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