This is the fourth in the Copper Tree Series of books, which aims to use simple stories for young children as a way of introducing them to important themes such as The Copper Tree on bereavement, Christmas Surprise on old age and, in this book, adoption. (We’ve not seen Blue Barn Farm on foodbanks, the other one in the series.)
We can commend this book wholeheartedly. It tells the story of Henry, the school hamster, who – to their surprise – has a litter of four baby hamsters, for which, in due course, new homes have to be found. Alfie, who was adopted, is given the job of hamster monitor, and he not only mentions his own life story book, but he creates one for Alfonzo, the smallest member of the litter, which his family adopt.
The words are by Hilary Robinson and the pictures are by Mandy Stanley; they make an excellent partnership; the story and the illustrations are well integrated. The tone of the book is pleasant and slightly whimsical, and it will make a good read for young children. The text manages to deal with the subject of adoption both directly and through the parallel story of the hamsters. It does not go into detail why Alfie needed to be adopted, but I doubt whether that will matter with children of this age, though teachers may need to have an answer ready if questioned.
As long as you do not tell Alfie, we can explain how Henry came to have baby hamsters. School hamsters are immortal. If one dies while in the care of a parent during the summer holidays, s/he is immediately replaced with a look-alike for fear of shame on the parent’s part. So Henry might have started the holidays as a male, but ended as a female. It is said that hamsters are hard to sex anyway. From bitter experience we can warn you against letting them run wild in the house; they like to make nests, chew wires and can even get behind the bars of the gas fire…..
Enjoy the book. All nursery schools and primary schools should have a copy.
Robinson, Hilary and Stanley, Mandy (2013) Help a Hamster
Strauss House Productions, South Milford, North Yorkshire