Inspiring Young Readers
Hamster Sitter Wanted by Tracy Gunaratnam, illustrated by Hannah Marks
The cover of this picture book immediately gives us the message that these mischievous hamsters are not going to co-operate or go to bed quietly for anyone. We get further clues to their different characters before the story begins with a double page spread of the twelve of them, each individually framed with their names emblazoned on their jumpers . I can imagine children choosing the ones that they wanted to identify with right from the start. I rather took a fancy to Smudge with his catapult and wild hair who reminded me of Dennis the Menace. On the other hand I also liked the look of Kipper who looks more thoughtful as he holds a feather in one paw and scratches his chin with the other.
They are an imaginative horde of little creatures ( I looked up the collective noun) as we can see from page one where the larger Marco and Polo hamsters are playing with a rocket made from boxes, surrounded by their smaller cousins. It seems that they are expected to look after them as a letter from Aunt Fluff explains ‘I need some ME time!’ As they want to continue their adventures uninterrupted, they decide to advertise for a hamster sitter.
The story continues with the downfall of the various animals who respond to the advertisements. It seems that none are fully prepared for the job of hamster sitting and each time they are outwitted by their charges. On the next pages, we see Marco and Polo having great fun skydiving away from home with the hamster sitter shown in the corner of the page trapped in the house with some of the cousins. Mrs Baaton the sheep is their first victim and she is wound up by her own knitting wool whilst the cousins rampage around the house. On their return she bleats ‘I won’t be coming back!’ and the little cousins are sent off to bed. I liked the rhythm of the story as each animal arrives looking optimistic and ready for the challenge. The pattern continues with Mr Yogani, the giraffe and the adventurers return from climbing Mount Everest to more mayhem and realise that they will have to stay at home. That is until Ms Bottomus the hippopotamus arrives allowing Marco and Polo to go lion dancing (I didn’t immediately see this pun) and she literally sits on the little cousins which is a great success for all concerned. But despite the relief at finding a competent sitter the final double pages show all of the hamsters in the house, some soundly asleep but several still engaged in potentially dangerous activities as Marco and Polo congratulate themselves. Children will enjoy spotting what they are all up to and talking about what might happen next.
This is another hilarious and colourful picture book from Maverick publishers which I am sure will prove to be very popular with young children and their parents. I would guess that we might be seeing further adventures from this lot in the not too distant future.