A Debate – The Great Hamster Massacre by Katie Davies

Lynn: We believe in unbiased reporting here at Bookends and in presenting ALL sides and opinions.  It’s not easy to pursue this noble goal in book reviewing and sometimes the cost is high.  In my case that cost has been domestic harmony.  Yes, faithful readers, the focus group and I have been engaged in a bitter dispute over a book that we read two months ago.  They adored it.  I loathed it!  They have been insisting I write about it.  I have been resisting.    But deep in my soul I knew that to be true to the reviewer’s code I would have to step up, examine my inner prejudices and present the unvarnished truth.  So here it is.  I get to go first since I am still – at least marginally – in charge.  The focus group, who will be 8 next week, will follow with their opinions.

Lynn: First the bare bones of The Great Hamster Massacre (S&S/Beach Lane 2011).  Anna and her little brother Tom have been begging for a hamster.  Their mother has been resisting, citing the horrifying ends of hamsters she previously owned.  Eventually the children wear her down.  (Hmmm – THAT sounds familiar.)  Two male hamsters are purchased and of course, they turn out NOT to be both males.  When the tiny babies are found dead, one of the adults badly wounded and the other missing, 9-year-old Anna, her friend Suzanne and Tom set out to find the culprit.  Anna reports on the “Real Investigation” in short chapters that are, I admit, addictive.  Her guileless observations of life in her neighborhood and family are really funny – OK, I admit that too.  The church scenes are especially funny.  The comic-style illustrations are a truly appealing addition.  OK – the whole package is terrifically designed to engage young readers and keep them turning the pages.  BUT (you knew there would be a BUT), this book is really gory.  The demise of a seemingly endless number of pets is spelled out in grisly detail!  Plus under all the humor are some really sad things.  Don’t be mislead!  The author kills off the Nana!  I admit it, I have an ingrained aversion to pet deaths and especially Nana deaths!  Sensitive young readers looking for a cuddly animal story (and grandmothers) may be taken aback by the English-humor style of this book.

Mason and Hayden: Our Nana is really really wrong!  This was a very good mystery and a cliffhanger too.  It is funny and weird in a good way.  Boys especially would like it and it is not as gory as Nana says.  It is supposed to be a joke.  Nana just doesn’t get it. We want to read the next book in the series!

Cindy: I love our focus group! I haven’t read this one and since I am buried in back to school meetings I won’t get to, but I have to side with Mason and Hayden on this one. Lynn (Nana) is predisposed to dislike any book in which an animal is harmed, let alone killed. When you add the death of the nana, I think it is too much for her to overcome.  And, the cover reminds me of the final scene in one of my favorite picture books, The Fat Cat by Jack Kent with the bandages on the Fat Cat’s stomach (come to think of it the little old lady gets killed off in that one, too, at least temporarily).



About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

1 Comment on "A Debate – The Great Hamster Massacre by Katie Davies"

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  1. lauraw@provolibrary.com' Laura Wadley says:

    I thought the book was hilarious (it’s easier to like if you grew up on a farm where so plants and animals drop dead with and without warning). In our library blog, I did warn parents that their tenderhearted children would probably be upended by this book, not to mention the tenderhearted parents themselves.

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