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Hamster and Cheese (Guinea Pig, Pet Shop Private Eye) Paperback – April, 2010
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From School Library Journal
Grade 2–4—Children will love Sasspants, a guinea pig who reads in her pet-shop cage using a thimble recycled as a reading lamp. She is the only animal properly identified because she's made her own sign using tiles. When the "G" at the end of "PIG" falls off, Hamisher the hamster mistakes Sasspants for a private investigator ("PI"), and enlists her help to find who's stealing Mr. Venezi's sandwiches. So begins this humorous mystery. Children who are just beginning to read graphic novels independently will enjoy solving the case with Sasspants. The full-color cartoons enhance the comic appeal. Two funny informational pages about the pet store denizens follow the story.—Marilyn Ackerman, Brooklyn Public Library, NY
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. --This text refers to the Library Binding edition.
Who is stealing Mr. Venezi’s sandwiches? The befuddled pet-shop owner misidentifies the store’s animals, leading the hamsters to think they’re koalas. In this first book in the Guinea PIG, Pet Shop Private Eye graphic-novel series, Hamisher the koala-hamster thinks Sasspants the guinea pig is a private investigator because the second G on her cage’s sign has fallen off, so he asks her to investigate. They travel through the pet shop, questioning the various animal suspects (rabbits, a snake, a parrot), and Sasspants decides to set a trap for the thief by disguising the shop’s turtle as a sandwich. Grumpy Sasspants, hyper Hamisher, creepy Gerry the snake, the goldfish (whom Mr. Venezi calls kangaroos), and the other animals all have distinctive personalities. Young readers will appreciate the zaniness of the pet shop and the fun mystery, and Yue’s colorful art uses a straightforward panel design that’s easy to follow. The book includes fun facts about snakes and other animals Mr. Venezi thinks he has. Grades 1-3. --Kat Kan
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Top Customer Reviews
This is just my opinion, so if anyone comments please don't shred me apart. If anyone could let me know of any comic/graphic novels that are good for kids (no potty talk, no name calling, the characters being respectful to each other) that would be great.
There. I've just told you everything you need to know to enjoy it. No need to thank me. Unfortunately, I have the creeping suspicion in the back of my medulla oblongata that there may be folks out there for whom "Sasspants"-monikered rodentia is not enough. Perhaps you are wondering what else there is to find in this bite-sized graphic novel. It's a slight little thing, after all. Coming in at a mere 48 pages you might be inclined to take it for a picture book or some such nonsense. Nonsense, I say, because this is a fantastic mystery rolled up in a small comic format. Cute as a button and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny too. Sometimes the best discoveries come in the smallest packages. And did I mention the guinea pig was named Sasspants? I did? Hm. Moving on.
The place: Mr. Venezi's Pets & Stuff. The time: late afternoon. The crime: Petshop owner and general bonehead Mr. Venezi has discovered that his sandwich disappeared during lunchtime and he blames his koalas (they're actually hamsters but Mr. Venezi isn't exactly a pro at the whole identifying-the-pets-you're-selling thing). If the sandwich disappears one more time then that's it for the "koalas". So when Hamisher the hamster sees that there's a resident Guinea PI in the shop (the "G" has fallen off her sign) he decides to hire guinea pig Sasspants to solve the crime. Sasspants, for her part, would like nothing better than to be left alone, but that's not going to happen as long as Hamisher's around. They strike up a deal: Sasspants will solve the mystery and Hamisher will leave her alone. What follows is a good old-fashioned mystery, complete with red herrings, false suspects, and the occasional sandwich-shaped turtle. A nonfiction section at the end gives some additional pet and animal facts.
We're looking at a first time children's book author and first time children's book artist with this book. One thing Venable does well right from the get-go is voice. You have no trouble distinguishing between your two heroes, after all. Imagine Nero Wolfe as a female guinea pig and Archie Goodwin as a hyper hamster. That's essentially the storyline we're facing here. Sasspants is a good egg but all she wants out of life is to be left alone. Hamisher, in contrast, is an upbeat social sort. All the other characters fall into place as well. From the idiotic pet shop owner to the easy-to-distract fish to the uppity bunnies, everyone is distinct. You'd never guess that this was Venable's first outing in the literary realm.
I can only imagine the tension a graphic novel author must feel when they don't know what artist they'll be paired with. Stephanie Yue's a relative newcomer to the field of children's literature, but boy does she have a way with a comic panel. It's not enough to have funny writing in a book like this. The visual gags have to be spot on or you're sunk. But from the moment Yue paired Hamisher's verbal onslaught with a single wordless panel of Sasspants closing the little hamster's mouth, I was hooked. Timing is everything. Yue also has a keen sense of design going on here. Panels get broken up constantly, shifting from long shots to short boxes and back again. In spite of the small page size the images and speech balloons never look cramped. Add in tiny visual details like the twitch of Sasspants' eye when irritated or Hamisher dressed like Andy Warhol (a detail I missed until about the fourth reading) and you've the impression that this artist was paying attention to her material.
Now the fact that Sasspants is female was a definite plus. Particularly since in most comics/animated movies/television shows, female animals usually sport foot-long eyelashes or little strategically placed powder pink bows. Sometimes there's even the hint of breasts. It's unpleasant. Full credit to artist Stephanie Yue for rejecting the usual ladyparts for our heroine then. Sasspants reads books, thinks about things logically, and wants to be left alone. I'll take my strong females where I can get them. Even if they are short and furry.
The nonfiction section at the end called Hamisher Explains is rather delightful as well. It gives basic facts about everyday pets, then shows why Mr. Venezi is wrong when he calls finches "llamas" or chinchillas "camels". Pet loving young `uns will learn random information, like the fact that "no two finches sing the same song, but dads pass similar songs down to sons."
If I've any objections to the book I'm concerned that it's so short. It worries me that libraries might not place it in the graphic novel section because of its strange page count and format. It's smaller than a picture book, so if it ends up in picture book sections it'll get lost. It's also thin, so if it's placed on graphic novel shelves it may be too skinny to draw the eye. So I guess I'm just going to pin my hopes on the chance that this book and the ones that follow it will sell well and then, someday, they'll be compiled into a delightful compendium volume with enough pages not to scare off the kids who feel they're too old to be reading 48 page books. As it stands, I'll be talking this book up left and right with my young readers. It's funny, smart, and full of slam-bang visuals. For graphic novel enthusiasts who are into mysteries, pet shop politics may not be their first pick. It'll be exactly what they're looking for if they're smart enough to pick it up, though. A hoot.
This is absolutely adorable! The artwork is so cute and the animals have such personalities it was a joy to read. Elementaries are going to love this series. Sasspants PI inadvertently gets mistaken for a detective and the hamsters call on him to solve the case of the missing sandwiches. Every day the owner puts a sandwich near the hamster cage for his lunch and every day it disappears. He has said if it happens one more time he is going to get rid of them once and for all. Only the hamsters don't know what is happening as they can't stay awake and Sasspants takes the case to get the annoying hamster off his back. The owner is somewhat addlepated, having labeled the animal cages with all the wrong names: the hamsters are koalas, the mice are walruses, the chinchillas are camels and so on. But what really makes this so entertaining are the personalities of the animals. Sasspants is a reader who wants to be left alone, a take charge guy just to get everyone off his case. The goldfish are my favourite with their short term memories, they can hardly remember each others names long enough let alone have an intelligent conversation. Then the hamsters who spend most of their time sleeping except the one who has befriended Detective Pants and thinks they have become best buddies, though he does have a tendency to fall asleep frequently and also believes he may still be a koala like the sign says. The last pages include an article on a non-fiction topic relevant to the story, this time explaining how a snake can eat something four times the size of its mouth and a last page telling the differences between what the owner labeled the animals and what they really are. Adorable!