Friday, January 15, 2010

Surprises According to Humphrey by Betty G. Birney

Surprises According to Humphrey
I knew before I ever started reading it that Surprises According to Humphrey would be a little young for my students. I still wanted to read it, because I love the idea of the class hamster narrating the story. Oh, it had the potential to be just adorable. (At least I hoped so!)

Humphrey tells of his experiences in Mrs. Brisbane's classroom at Longfellow School. He describes normal, everyday events from his perspective, which often lead to humorous miscalculations. When a new custodian comes in to clean the room, Humphrey is convinced that she must be a space alien. She talks to the "mother ship" by pressing something on her ear and has wires attached to her ears. I chuckled over the obvious description of an iPod with earphones and a Bluetooth phone receiver.

I can't help but compare Humphrey to Hank the Cowdog. There are many similarities in tone, humor, and style. While completely opposite in setting and plot, I think readers who enjoy one series will appreciate the other.

Surprises According to Humphrey is a cute and clever tale. I know it's set in an elementary school and ideally suited for 3rd or 4th graders, but I think there really might be some appeal for middle schoolers. Granted, it's not a challenging read for them, but I believe they could appreciate the humorous situations that Humphrey describes.

Yes, this was every bit as adorable as I'd hoped. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend to anyone from 3rd grade to about 6th or 7th grade. My grade? A 'B+'.

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