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Hot Rod Hamster Hardcover – February 1, 2010
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From School Library Journal
PreSchool-Grade 1—Kids will be in the driver's seat, bonding with the hot-rod hamster as he sallies forth into a bulldog's junkyard to put together his very own race car. It's a dog's race, though, and children will sympathize with the small creature's struggle to compete with bigger, gruffer opponents and cheer him on to the finish line. Close-ups of the mud-streaked track in the bold-stroked, textured acrylics allow readers to see the competition at eye-level with the hamster (and axis-level with the other contenders). But the action builds up even before the engines start, and young readers will love helping the irrepressible hamster build his dream car. Their hands will dart up immediately when they hear the refrain, "Which one would you choose?" illustrated with comic-style illustrations of the myriad choices of cars, tires, parts, and flames, and they'll become hot-rod designers along with Hamster. If Bob Kolar's Racer Dogs (Dutton) or Brian Floca's The Racecar Alphabet (S & S, both 2003) are worn, torn, and vroom-vroomed in your library, add this one to the lot.—Sara Paulson-Yarovoy, American Sign Language and English Lower School PS 347, New York City
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Junior racing fans will get a vicarious thrill with this story of a tiny driver who dares to burn rubber with the big boys. The story has two halves: the construction of the hot rod and the big race. The hamster—a tiny orange puffball usually found levitating with glee and shouting stuff like “Now I’m ready to ROLL!”—begins at the local scrap heap, where a junkyard dog (and his staff of rats) assists in constructing the perfect racer. The rhyming scheme is consistent: “Old car, new car, shiny painted blue car; / Rust car, clean car, itty-bitty green car.” Then the text involves the reader: “Which would you choose?” Usually the right answer can be sussed out; for example, that green car is just the size for a three-inch-tall driver. Once wheeled and oiled (and flame-painted, too), it’s off to the track, where the racing rodent wins and then has to make the toughest choice of all: which trophy to take. Anderson’s acrylics are boisterously large, colorful, and off-kilter—just like his swaggering protagonist. Preschool-Kindergarten. --Daniel Kraus
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The words are catchy and engaging ("Great day, grin day, build a car to win day") and the story is uniquely entertaining (A hot rod for a hamster? Who would think it would be so fun?). My boys like to say the words along with me and the race at the end is always greatly anticipated. They also like the "What would you choose?" parts where they can pick what they would want for a hot rod. I don't buy kids books unless I love them (or my kids do and I can tell it's a good book), and this one's a keeper.