Cynthia Lord's popular picture book series, featuring a fuzzy, enthusiastic hamster and a cheerfully vigorous, swinging text, have been turned into a series of easy readers.
In this first title, Hamster reprises his first adventure, building a car, when he sees an advertisement for a soapbox derby (they don't call it that, but that's basically what it is). With his friend Doug and the mice he choose the materials for his new car - a box, wheels, decorations (flames of course) and they're ready to go! Hamster and his dragster are the smallest ones in the race, which features some big dogs and he quickly falls behind. However, a clever trick lets him keep to the rules and still win the race!
The pictures are "based on the art" of the original illustrator, Derek Anderson. They don't have the life and color of the original, but are perfectly serviceable for an easy reader.
The text is all over the place. One page has a speech bubble and a simple rhyming couplet, another has the text divided into two-word sentences placed in different locations across the page. The font is not as small as a typical chapter book, but it's smaller than the usual easy reader. Because of the layout, font, and more complex text, this is going to fit best a reader who already has some fluency and is familiar with finding words in different locations on the page.
Verdict: Hamster is a popular character and this cheerful easy reader, although it doesn't have the spark and pizazz of the original picture books, will probably be attractive to beginning readers with some fluency.
ISBN: 9780545694421; Published 2014 by Scholastic; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Added to the library's easy reader backlist to purchase