Hamster-in-a-HandbasketTitle: Hamster in a Handbasket
Author: Ben M. Baglio
Pages: 145
Reading Level: 9-12
Star Rating: ★★★

Animal Ark!

The Story.

Mandy and James are excited that school is about to be let out for the summer, but they are also a little nervous. You see, James (along with many other classmates) has volunteered to take care of Henry the Eighth, the school hamster, during the summer, and there is to be a drawing to decide which of them will take Henry home. Oh, how badly James wants to be chosen!

And he is! Mandy and James are ecstatic and immediately begin planning all of the fun activities they will do with Henry. But their summer will be far from quiet; a trailer park is being set up outside of their small city of Welford. There, children are pouring in from urban cities to enjoy a few weeks time in the country. Many of Welford’s citizens are forming protests against the park and are trying to shut them down.

Will Mandy and James be able to take good care of Henry? And will they be able to convince the angry protesters that the park is a good idea?


Mandy has sweet relationships with her parents and grandparents. Although she often functions independently (dashing around the city on her bike), she also goes to all of them for their help and advice. She and her parents are always on the same page as far as what they believe is right and are almost always in agreement as to what they should do about it.

Mandy and her father have a very fun relationship and tease each other frequently. Mandy sometimes becomes mock irritated with him. For example, in one scene, he squirts her with a hose and she hops around squealing and pretending to be upset. When his plan backfires and he is the one being squirted with the hose, Mandy tells him that it “serves you right”. Because of the playful context, I did not find this statement to be disrespectful.

The main theme of the story is the question of whether groups of children from the city should spend their vacation time at the Welford trailer park. Mandy and her family land whole-heartedly on the ‘pro’ side, while others are equally ‘anti’. While I think that it is a good idea for children to experience new places, I believe that summer camps can be very harmful. Nothing bad actually happens at the camp, although two of the Welford city children are mean to one of the newcomers. (This is resolved.)

One of the leaders of the trailer park opposition team is Mrs. Ponsonby, who is portrayed as snobby and unloving. However, when at the end of the story it is proven that the trailer park children have caused no actual damage, she enters into the spirit of things and actually helps to prepare for a party being thrown in their honor. She also displays marked generosity when she gives a pet to a lonely young girl. I liked this because it showed that just because you may disagree with someone over an issue, it does not make them evil.

While discussing the possibility of being chosen to care after Henry, Mandy and James state several times that it will be up to their ‘luck’.

Conclusion. Sweet but totally un-epic.

Review © 2013 Laura Verret

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