The Misadventures of Sweetie Pie
Publisher: Andersen Press
Sweetie Pie the hamster is the last to be bought from the shop by the Pigtailed Girl, who overfeeds him and then sells him to a friend. But the boy has a dog that knocks Sweetie Pie’s cage off its table and scares him to death, so he’s not sad to be given to mean-faced Cousin Sue: that is, until she makes him put on a dress and then rolls him down the street in a plastic ball. Rescued by another little girl, the unfortunate Sweetie Pie eventually finds himself as a school pet, until a squirrel shows him that all might not be lost…
Chris Van Allsburg, author of Jumanji and The Polar Express, tends to bring a sense of unease and strangeness to his popular books for children, and this apparently simple tale of a pet hamster’s adventures is no exception. Rendered in bright pastel illustrations, it has a similar strange and enjoyable intensity, perhaps all the more for invoking the chaotic garishness of childhood. Children aren’t always as attentive to their pets as they could be, and if reading this leads to a renewed thoughtfulness about the welfare of their little animals, it’s surely no bad thing.