A picture book about the difficult life of a pet hamster.
Sweetie Pie is a hamster who, it seems, is doomed to be owned by a series of neglectful children. Originally bought from a pet store, Sweetie Pie is sold down the river, as it were, by a series of child owners who, when the hamster becomes no longer cute or a novelty, hand him off to someone else. Finally he ends up in a school classroom, tended by the children. But even then Sweetie Pie’s troubles are not over. One of the children forgets him on the playground, and snow and darkness fall over the hamster trapped in his cage. Van Allsburg’s illustrations, done in his trademark precise style, evoke a feeling of detachment that matches the oddly unempathetic text. When, the next morning, the careless child rushes to collect Sweetie Pie, all he finds is an empty, unlatched cage. He is contrite, but no one seems to care much—a guinea pig takes Sweetie Pie’s place in the classroom soon enough. The good news is Sweetie Pie was rescued by squirrels and now has a great life with squirrel friends in a tree. The bad news is that Sweetie Pie’s “happy ending” comes with no consequences for all the rotten children in his life and is wildly, even harmfully, unrealistic.
Save this one for non–animal lovers. (Picture book. 5-8)