The World According to Humphrey (According to Humphrey, #1) by Betty G. Birney
This was the one district, one book selection my kids brought home from school to read together this year. I love this program, but usually the books they choose are either totally lame, completely boring, or both. (I’m looking at you, The Sixty-Eight Rooms!)
The World According to Humphrey was neither lame, nor boring! It was a blast to read out loud. My second grader hung on every word and got excited in all the right places. Not only was the book a lot of fun, the story was an awesome teacher as well. Humphrey is the classroom hamster, and the story is told in Humphrey’s voice and from his point of view. He sees and observes all that happens in the class room during the week, and then each weekend the kids in the class take him home. Humphrey learns that the shy girl is shy because her parents don’t speak English and she is afraid the kids will make fun of her accent. The mean boy is mean because his mom is sick. The noisy kid is noisy because at his house the TV never turns off, the music is always on, and his family doesn’t play together. Their teacher’s husband had an accident, is confined to a wheel chair, has lost all his motivation for life. The principal, while respected at school, doesn’t feel respected at home by his own kids. As Humphrey visits everyone in their homes, he finds ways to help them solve their problems. As a child reader, we get to understand that the kids and teachers in our class are different, but that differences aren’t bad. In fact, our differences actually make us the same–because we all have situations at home that no one at school knows about, and the things that happen at home make us they way we are at school. Reading about Humphrey’s interactions with the students in class and in their homes helped my son develop feelings of empathy for his classmates, and I loved Humphrey for that.
As Humphrey likes to say, “You can learn a lot about yourself by learning about another species!”
It turns out there are several Humphrey books, and I think I’ll add some of them to our collection. If you’re looking for a good book series for your 7 to 10 year olds, you won’t do much better than The World According to Humphrey.