This slice-of-life Canadian import is more than just another “I want to get a pet” tale.
Nine-year-old Jeannie was promised a hamster, but her father’s recent departure from the family has upset their routines. When she finally gets to the pet store and chooses a white hamster with blue eyes, she names it Harvey Owens, after her father. Meanwhile, Sapphire the hamster just wants to be free. She (yes, unbeknownst to Jeannie, Harvey/Sapphire is a female) escapes several times, but freedom is never what she thinks it will be. With Dad gone, new family friend Anna Conda steps in to help Jeannie’s mother out. A trans woman, Anna helps Jeannie to believe “you are who you are,” assisting Jeannie and her older brother with the background behind their parents’ separation: Their dad has fallen in love with another person, who happens to be a man. Sapphire and Jeannie narrate alternating chapters, and neither is completely aware of all that is going on around them. Sapphire, especially, reports dialogue and action she does not fully understand, adding an additional layer to this tale of understanding difference. Seen through Jeannie’s unquestioning gaze, Anna is a sympathetic, fairly rounded character, but she also comes across as a plot device. Additionally, she concedes to Jeannie’s desire to learn her pre-transition name—a missed opportunity to communicate to young readers this essential point of respect. Jeannie’s family and Anna present white. Sapphire's illustrated guide to hamster care adds a touch of fun.
Passable but flawed. (Fiction. 8-11)