When looking for a picture book, there are a few things I always think are a real signpost for success:
- Good illustration – there are times when beautiful pencil drawing and nature scenes are just what is called for, but I’ve personally always preferred cheeky characters and bright colours
- Playful language – one of the greatest things about reading to your little one is the way it helps their language development, and the more fun things are to say and listen to, the more they’ll want to repeat them
- A good laugh – there are some beautiful, emotional books out there and some with a good message, but nothing is more enjoyable than a good giggle with your kids
- Something for the parents – I think this is possibly the most important one. My kids are real connoisseurs of books, but even they occasionally develop the odd affection for an absolute snooze-fest of a story which quickly becomes the bane of bedtime and somehow gets ‘accidentally’ lost down the back of the sofa for weeks at a time. If we, the parents, are going to read them, we need to get something out of them too and the best children’s authors are able to pitch at both levels.
I was really nervous about receiving my first ever books from a publisher for review, but thankfully Hamster Sitter by Tracy Gunaratnam and Hannah Marks ticks all my boxes.
This is the story of two adventurous hamsters who have to put their explorations on hold to look after a host of naughty hamster cousins – unless they can find a hamster sitter who can handle them!
The illustrations are great; bright, cheeky, cute and Marks has an impressive ability to convey a whole emotion in the just the curve of a pen. Plus, the details in the scenes with all the cheeky hamsters give you plenty to look out for on each reading.
The language is fun and playful enough to make my eldest laugh, while simple enough for my youngest to copy and try out. There are in jokes for the parents – the Hamster explorers are ‘Marco’ and ‘Polo’ – plus the odd sneaky pun thrown in for good measure, such as Ms Baaton the sheep being “totally wound up” and “Lion Dancing” being a “roaring success”.
Ultimately though, the winner for us was the appeal to the children’s (and my…) totally immature sense of humour. Who couldn’t love a book which ends with a good old bum joke courtesy of Ms Bottomus the hippopotamus?
A lovely story worthy of a giggle. Two thumbs up.