Gecko Press is doing a wonderful job—selecting only a few works to publish each year allows their focus to fall to seriously good books. The Travels of an Extraordinary Hamster is one of the first kid’s books to make me genuinely laugh out loud. It swings from sincere sweet moments, to quirky jokes, at a rather surprising and incredibly enjoyable pace.
Following a format that shares similarities to early chapter books and comic strips, the story is told through pictures and speech bubbles, with vivid illustrations lending to the development of the story. Each story is only two or three pages long, allowing for small stories to be developed within the larger story. Following the Hamster who, along with his friends in the clearing, goes on an adventure to the North Pole, despite Hamster wanting to visit his cousins on the moon. Alongside this plot is a romance that blooms between the hedgehog and the mole, and that is bloody cute.
Much like other kids books, beneath the initial kids-appeal lies a sea of big ideas adults find interesting, and that children need to learn. Here the biggest concept is selfishness, with Hamster being unapologetically selfish, and his friends entirely accepting.
Hamster is like the Michael Scott of kids’ books—he just wants to impress other people, and be a bit powerful. Hamster creates lies he can live in, creating his own extraordinary world. He’s not afraid of the word no, telling his friends what he thinks regardless of the repercussions. This trait, while breaking many of society’s rules of conduct, is entirely endearing to his character, he is bold and honest, and not limited by people’s perceptions. His friends all accept this attribute, never blinking an eyelid when he says they can’t share his snacks, nor can they sit by him. As my boyfriend said when reading this, “that Hamster is a dick!”, but for kids, selfishness is treated with humour and ridiculousness. The Hamster’s startlingly rude remarks are the basis of a lot of the humour, which presents the negativity of selfishness in a gentler way, while clearly presenting the negative attributes.
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The book is full of bold and lively illustrations, which brings the world of these friends to life, and shit those animals are cute. Especially the mole—the mole is so, so cute.