Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Daydreams of a Solitary Hamster

Astrid Desbordes; Illustrations by Pauline Martin

This is a very unusual book that takes a little getting used to. Initially, I wasn't quite sure what I thought because the format is just so different from other children's books.  But the illustrations drew me in and the character attitudes and dialogues kept me engaged and entertained.  It definitely is a different sort of book, but it is also an interesting one that gets the readers thinking.

I would describe the set up as similar to a comic book or strip, with white lines forming boxes that separate the actions. Each vignette lasts only one or two pages, featuring a mix of the animals and their everyday life. A cast of six characters, each of whom bring their own unique personality to the table, are named simply as Hamster, Mole, Snail, Hedgehog, Rabbit and Squirrel. They may have simple forest names, but they are actually very complex animals. Hamster is remarkably egotistical, and unabashedly so. The comments that come out of his mouth are in direct contrast to his small, fuzzy exterior. Mole is sensitive and thoughtful, writing poetry and doing kind favors for his friends.  Rabbit is one of those all around good guys, whom others just seem to flock around. 

I thought some of the funniest bits in the whole book are those of Hamster and his birthday presents. He has a strict list of approved gifts (specific in both type and quantity) and shows absolutely no appreciation whatsoever for those which deviate from list. When presented with an unauthorized offering, he flatly states "Yuck. That smells bad. But thanks anyway." 

The book's content seems slightly more adult to me, and I was not surprised to read that the author has a background in philosophy. The press release reads "Philosophical, thought-provoking and laugh-out-loud funny ... the author infuses the book with a joyful spirit, while meditating on friendship, selfishness and the power of dreams."  You know, they really nailed it.  

Review copy provided by Enchanted Lion. 

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