An earlier book (published in Britain in 1978) by the author of The Indian in the Cupboard. The form is familiar: narrating in the literate, confiding style of a 19th-century novel, Houdini describes his first year; an unusually intelligent hamster, he is also a gently satirical observer of people. Banks packs a lot of information on hamster's needs and how they operate into his story, but it's all germane, never didactic. Houdini's adventures are varied and build to a satisfying climax: his indoor explorations (the three little boys will keep letting him out even before he learns to escape on his own) are followed by terrifying outdoor adventures with cat, dog, fire, and water as well as a delicately described mating; after a winter's hibernation he and his human family finally compromise--less destructive now that he's mature, they let him roam almost free. Banks is remarkably consistent in speaking from Houdini's point of view without anthropomorphizing his behavior, although some of his thoughts (like his views on his human family's comfortably messy house in comparison to the filthy chaos and boring perfection of houses he visits) do reflect the author. A winning, funny animal story; the broad appeal of its subject combined with its demanding style makes it especially appropriate for reading aloud.