Peggy Rathmann is the author and illustrator of "Goodnight Gorilla-her masterpiece-as well as several other highly acclaimed books (e.g., "Officer Buckle and Gloria," "The Day the Babies Crawled Away"). This book combines a number of familiar motifs: Animals that may or may not be imaginary (visible only to the boy protagonist, but not to his father), counting between 1 and 10, lots of detailed background activity, self-referential humor, fantasy spinning off of the mundane, and an exciting conclusion hinging on whether the boy will get to bed on time.
The surface plot is simple: A father immersed in his paper (with humorous stories on it) announces that it's 10 minutes until the boy's bedtime, and counts down the remaining time each minute. Rathmann takes it much further than this though. For some reason, the boy's real hamster advertises a "10-minute bedtime tour" in the local paper. The hamsters arrival coincides with the 10-minutes in which the boy must get ready for bed. For the rest of the story, the pet hamster echoes the father's countdown, and the guest hamsters follow the boy around as he brushes his teeth, goes on the "potty," reads a story, etc. The echoes reverberate like two facing mirrors. Not only do the hamsters recapitulate the father and son's activities, but also the boy becomes his own doppelganger. He's shown reading a book--this book, "10 Minutes Till Bedtime." On page 22 (four minutes to go), you see him looking over his chair at the scores of newly arrived hamsters in his bedroom, holding this book turned to page 22. More and more hamsters arrive, practically filling the bathtub, and they cluster in groups dancing in hulas, laying in deck chairs, water-skiing, and boating. The whole book seems close to exploding with hamster tourists, until a gigantic shout of "Bedtime!" shakes them off the rafters and out of the house.
This is an ambitious book with mixed results. The illustrations are wonderful, luminous (including the signature lamppost), colorful, and with good separation of foreground and background. Rathmann's pictures of the ever-increasing hamsters are convincing, and their adaptation of human activities (traveling in campers made out of oatmeal boxes, taking pictures, riding a toy train, etc.) is funny and recognizable despite the miniature scale. Still, it's a very busy book, and the crescendo of hamster-mania is not exactly calming (although the humor is). It's also a bit difficult to explain how this all happens. You can either go with the "it's just his imagination" angle, or you can say these are things that only children can see, or you can just ignore plausibility altogether and hope your child does too. What's somewhat more annoying is Rathmann's self-referential humor, especially the commercialization of the gorilla from "Goodnight Gorilla." If fantasies are inherently valuable, then why must we see the gorilla become the doll property of the boy. Moreover, the drawings of this book inside the book also seem unnecessary and contrived. In a way, this repeated product placement feels more like more self-promotion than the clever or sly touches for which Ms. Rathmann is famous.
Overall, if your child enjoys abstract fantasy, animals, and slightly busy books with lots of tiny activities on every page, this book may become a favorite. For me, none of her books rivals the simple, wry humor of "Goodnight, Gorilla." However, Rathmann challenges both herself and her readers with this very interesting excursion. Slightly older kids (say, early elementary school age may enjoy the "Sims"-like quality of the scurrying hamsters, and others may enjoy the "Where's Waldo" detail. There's no trouble finding `Waldo' here: The real or imagined hamsters are here, there, and almost everywhere. The book is nicely produced, with little touches like photos of the "tour" on the inside book covers, and excellent color reproduction.
on July 9, 2002
I checked this book out of the library for my 2 1/2yr old daughter. Although she enjoys most books we check out, I've never seen her react so favorably to a book and because there are so many things going on, I never tire of reading it with her! We've discovered something new every single time we've read it. We enjoy finding the 10 numbered hamsters of the family and always know #9 is going to be up high, etc! Not to mention how she helps me "read" it, shouting out BEDTIME and counting down w/me! It reminds me of a Richard Scarry book my brother had growing up that he would never put down and I knew I had to make this a permanent addition to our family!
on February 12, 2008
The brilliance of this book lies in the tiny details and the chaotic, then calm, nature of bedtime.
As the hamsters accompany the child on his bedtime routine, brushing teeth, pajamas, some are imitating our spiky haired hero, watch for one hamster with similar spiky hair parroting the movements of the child, and some are into a little mischief. Each page is packed with activity, and a parent can ask the open ended question, "what do you see" to dramatic effect. I read one review of a parent with an 18 month old who did not seem to `get' the book. He noted that all he could do was to point and say, "this one is brushing his teeth" etc. but I argue that the teaching aspect of this work lies not in the parent's view, but in the child's. Rather than telling the child what is on the page, ask an open-ended question. "which hamster is your favorite? "what do you see? What is happening on this page?" True, there is some effect of a "Where's Waldo" nature in that the page is absolutely packed with details. But, my 5 year old delights in these details, shouting, "look at this one. No...no...no.. look at this one". Each pose, each activity, adds to the bedlam and the giggle factor at my house. Cries of "don't turn the page yet!" are heard with some regularity as reading uncovers something new. It should be noted that by the book's end, the chaos has diminished so much so that the child of the book, and possibly your own child, are ready for bedtime at last. The mental equivalent of running around the yard prior to a nap to tire the child. 5 stars!
on December 27, 2001
This book is adorable! I bought it for my 5 month old son. I love these kinds of books that have detailed illustrations that enable you to introduce young children to the joy of reading through the pictures and easy text featured. Peggy Rathmann has sooo much talent in the illustration end. If you're familiar with her other books (Good Night, Gorilla & Officer Buckle and Gloria), you'll get a sneak peak at those characters in here but you've got to look closely. Her books are so fun that even my two-year old daughter enjoys them. She picked this book out to read today several times even though we bought it for her brother for Christmas. Good Night, Gorilla was a favorite of my daughter's, but I think we both love this book even more.
on November 11, 2000
My twins pull this book out every night for me to read, and it's the one book I never tire of either. The detail of the illustrations is wonderful. Every page has so much going on, that we can read it over and over and find something new. However, there is also a lot of consistency. My girls love to show me the hamster kicking a ball on every page, and know all the quotes uttered by the baby hamster. The text is simple enough ("10 minutes til bedtime; 9 minutes til bedtime". . . )so that toddlers can read it to themselves, but the pictures are exciting enough to interest a much older child (or adult). I would recommend this book to anyone with children.
on March 30, 1999
We got this book from the library, and ended up buying a copy because our little hamster lover can't get enough of this book. She quickly memorized the little bits of text in the book, and every time we go through the book she notices more details. We've probably read the book 70 times and still don't tire of it since it's such good fun. If your child likes puzzles, or the "I Spy" series, and has a small pet, then he/she will probably adore this book. Give it a try!!