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Book Review: Humberto, the Bookworm Hamster by Mayra Calvani, Illustrated by Kit Grady

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“Books left, books right, books up, books down. Books, books, books everywhere!”

Mayra Calvani's Humberto, the Bookworm Hamster shares a passion of mine. Like me he is a bibliophile, perhaps even more devoted than myself. He reads when he cooks, when he eats, when he brushes his teeth, and when he takes walks. He even reads audio books on his iPod while he sleeps. This little hamster is one avid reader.

Indeed, Humberto’s passion consumes his entire life. He doesn’t have time to be friends with the blind beaver, to play cards with the rabbit and squirrel, or otherwise enjoy life in the forest. That is, until a great storm brings devastation to his community. When Humberto must choose between saving his few remaining undamaged books and helping his neighbours, what will he choose?

Most children’s titles revolving around the role of books in a child’s life focus upon creating excitement for reading, encouraging children to dig in and gobble up some words. Humberto’s story, however, takes a different tack; it serves almost as a moral tale to those of us whose lives threaten to be consumed by literature. As a book reviewer I can relate, and my children are certainly acquainted with the “books right, books up, books down” syndrome. I’m thankful however that they didn’t relate to mommy being too busy to be their friend because she was reading.

Illustrated by Kit Grady in a bright, computer-generated style, the artwork is fairly simple, filled with charming woodland creatures, and — of course – many books. Generally speaking, I’m not a fan of this artistic media. Unless handled expertly it often results in a lack of depth, background detail, and warmth, as is the case in Humberto. Sometimes I wonder what adult opinion counts for though, as my three-year-old daughter grabbed the book as it emerged from it’s packaging, paged through, and exclaimed, “Mommy, I love this book more than any other book in the entire world!” We have quite a personal library, so I respect her input.

People over possessions, service over self – Humberto’s message rings with truth. While many picture books are read once and then forgotten, this little, word-loving hamster has dug himself into the hearts of my children. His tale is one that has been frequently requested in recent days. Humberto brings the book-addict in us back down to earth, and into the loving arms of family and friends.

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