Monday, April 15, 2024

Humphrey's Tiny Tales: Playful Puppy Problem by Betty G. Birney, illustrated by Priscilla Burris

Genre: Animal stories
Protagonists: Animals, male
Reading level: 500s
Series: Probably complete with 7 titles
Originally reviewed in 2016

Review: This is part of the rather odd trend of cutting chapter books down to beginning chapters. I find this pointless since, if they're trying to attract a previous fan base, those kids are unlikely to be familiar with the characters and if they're trying to build a new fan base the books are really quite close together in reading level and by the time the kids move on to the older chapter series they're likely to have lost interest. However, they are useful beginning chapter books and I've bought quite a few of them - the younger series of Hank Zipzer (Here's Hank), Judy Moody (Judy Moody and Friends) and Humphrey's Tiny Tales (Humphrey).

The original Humphrey books, about a class hamster, regularly rise and fall in popularity and seem to be as much of a staple as Beverly Cleary or Junie B. Jones.

SO, what is this book about? Humphrey is hanging out in his cage and watching the class doings with interest when he learns that the kids are going to do experiments, he's going home with Richie for the weekend and Richie is....going to do an experiment on HIM! Humphrey is very worried about this, even more so when he gets to Richie's house and discovers they have a very playful and scary new puppy. But once the experiment gets underway and Richie's uncle, the school janitor, helps Humphrey feel more at home, things seem to be going well. But when disaster strikes, only Humphrey can fix the experiment - if he can get past his fear of the puppy. What will Humphrey do?

Verdict: So, honestly I found this book to be....boring. Nothing much happened, it was rather repetitive and I kind of trudged through it. But kids who are struggling to move into chapter books will find this a good choice. The language and plot is simple so they can concentrate on their reading skills without losing track of what's happening, there's enough mild humor and silliness to keep them reading, and there are only a few, easily identifiable characters. It's a good choice for my younger book club, which has a lot of struggling readers and I'll continue adding these titles to our collection.

Revisited: Humphrey, and these simpler chapters, continue to be solid backlist titles for circulation. One thing I've found, which proves that sometimes publishers know better than me lol, is that as the years pass and the original books become "classics" there are parents eager to introduce them to their kids who really like the younger versions. Humphrey is definitely in this category and if the original books are popular and you initially missed these shorter chapters, they are well-worth purchasing, especially as this year is the 20th anniversary of the original Humphrey stories. These also are solidly in the "gentle reads" category for my patrons.

ISBN: 9780399252020; Published 2014 by G. P. Putnam/Penguin; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library

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