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Humphrey’s Really Wheely Racing Day & Humphrey’s Playful Puppy Problem by Betty G. Birney

Everyone’s Favorite Classroom Pet, Humphrey, is Back in New Tiny Tales

 

Humphrey’s Really Wheely Racing Day & Humphrey’s Playful Puppy Problem
Written by Betty G. Birney and Illustrated by Priscilla Burris
(Putnam Juvenile, Paperback $4.99, Ages 5-8)

How do you introduce a younger age group to the adventures and antics of America’s popular classroom pet? With Humphrey’s Tiny Tales, a new chapter book series created for the K-3 crowd by Betty G. Birney.  A step up from easy readers, the first two books in the series are sure to attract a legion of devoted fans.

Humphrey-reallywheely-cvr.jpgBirney’s award-winning middle grade novels are a mainstay on reading lists across the country so it’s no surprise that both author and publisher would want to share beloved teacher Mrs. Brisbane’s insightful and friendly hamster with chapter book readers. Featuring shorter page counts, delightful illustrations, fewer characters and easier reading level, Humphrey’s Really Wheely Racing Day (Book No. 1) and Humphrey’s Playful Puppy Problem (Book No. 2) are perfect for holiday break time when reading is not high on many kids’ lists.

In Humphrey’s Really Wheely Racing Day, (Book No. 1), our “positive role model,” rodent is rolling all right! After trying his hamster friend, Winky’s, auto, Humphrey wants a really wheely car, too. A hamster wheel and a ball are okay, but an automobile’s extra exciting, especially when Mrs. Brisbane gets one for Humphrey. Everyone’s even more surprised to learn that Humphrey will be racing against Don’t Complain-Mandy Payne’s pet hamster, Winky, for all the school to see!

Humphrey-playfupuppy-cvr.jpgIn Humphrey’s Playful Puppy Problem (Book No. 2), Richie Rinaldi (school custodian Aldo’s nephew) has Humphrey for the weekend and plans to use him in his science experiment. While Humphrey fears being turned into “Humphrey-stein,” it’s GREAT-GREAT-GREAT when he realizes he’s just going to be timed on his wheel. What he doesn’t like is the WOOF-WOOF-WOOF of Richie’s puppy Poppy with her wet nose and sharp teeth getting too close for comfort. Will she figure out how to open his cage’s lock-that-doesn’t-lock? Will Humphrey save Richie’s experiment so it’s a DING-DING-DING success? Read how a helpful, happy hamster makes everything right.

Coming this spring, Humphrey’s Creepy-Crawly Camping Adventure

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

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Annie and Simon: The Sneeze and Other Stories by Catharine O’Neill

Annie and Simon: The Sneeze and Other Stories by Catharine O’Neill is reviewed by Dornel Cerro.

Starred Review – Kirkus
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Cheerful and talkative Annie, and her big brother Simon are back for another adventure in Annie and Simon: The Sneeze and Other Stories written and illustrated by Catharine O’Neill (Candlewick Press, $15.99, Ages 3-8). Each of the four short stories in this second volume focuses on the two very different, yet loving, siblings, delivering gentle messages about relationships, perspective, caring, and sharing.

“Living Things” is a perfect introduction to both characters. The wise-beyond-his years Simon uses his binoculars to observe nature at the lake, while Annie draws what she sees – or thinks she sees. Her scribbly drawings are not always accurate and what she believes she knows isn’t necessarily true. An exchange about frogs is humorous and telling:

“Knees? Frogs with knees? Oh, Simon. Tee-hee.  Tee-hee.  Tee-hee.”

“Good grief,” said Simon. (p. 5).

Under Simon’s patient tutelage, Annie begins to understand more of the world around her than just what she sees or thinks she knows.

In “The Sneeze,” Annie wants to take care of a sick Simon, but needs his help to do so.

Annie loves cats because they purr and tries to teach her dog Hazel to purr in “Hazel, Hazel, Hazel.” However, when she spies something dangling from a cat’s mouth, a horrified Annie decides that Hazel should just be a dog.

In “Horse Chestnuts,” Annie and Simon find a squirrel has taken made off with their chestnuts. When Annie learns from Simon that the squirrel will need the chestnuts for the winter, she agrees to share.

The quietly-paced stories reveal the strong bond between Annie and Simon despite their differences. O’Neill’s soft and colorful watercolor illustrations are endearing and perfectly complement the warm and inviting stories. Use this as a read aloud for preschoolers, share it with siblings who don’t get along, and give it to beginning readers who are fans of Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad series and James Howe’s Houndsley and Catina series (also published by Candlewick). Visit the publisher’s page for more information on this book and links to other books by Catharine O’Neill.

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