Trouble According to Humphrey

by Betty G. Birney

Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

This book just didn’t wow me, though it is definitely solid.  It’s sweet, reminds me a bit of The Magical Ms. Plum in the episodic format and the cute stories with tidy endings.  Told from the point of view of the classroom (3rd grade, I believe) hamster, Humphrey, they are stories about the kids in the class, whom he considers classmates and feels responsible for.  Humphrey goes home with a different classmate each weekend, so gets to learn about their home lives as well – for better or worse.  The stories did delve a bit more into the darker side of what could be going on in kids’ lives and resolving conflict, but overall problems were resolved quite neatly, so it’s a bit unrealistic for adult expectations but probably pushing the boundaries for the target audience.  For example, one of the classmates is a girl with an overworked mother supporting her unemployed husband and four children.  After their turn to have Humphrey for the weekend, the kids get sick and the mother threatens to sue but then the father gets a job at the vet where they take Humphrey with the teacher – they do a full turn-around and drop the threat of suing and the mother stops being a bully and everyone lives happily ever after.  That particular story does touch on the very topical theme of unemployment, though, which I bet a lot of kids can relate to.

Finally, a PSA of sorts – if anyone working with kids’ books doesn’t already know this site, I use it all the time and used it here to determine that I had started with book #3 out of 6 (the first one being The World According to Humphrey).  The books follow the school year and #6 is about summer vacation, so it’s unclear whether they will continue with exactly the same cast of characters if there are any more books.

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