Thursday, November 1, 2012

The world according to Humphrey by Betty G Birney

How do you find a good book?  Sometimes this happens in a surprising way. On my recent trip I was chatting with a grandparent about great stories for her little granddaughter – I had mentioned I was a Teacher-Librarian.  I often have conversations like this.  I did not know someone else was listening but later, as I walked along with my group, Joyce asked me about my job.  Anyway to “cut a long story short”,  Joyce is a reading teacher in a US school.  We instantly had so much in common and then she told me about a wonderful project she co-ordinates in her elementary school.  Every class in the school reads the same book over three weeks.  Teachers work through a schedule and at the end of each week there are questions and puzzles to solve all culminating in a huge assembly.  The first book they used for this project was Mr Poppers Penguins (Joyce was keen to have all children experience the book prior to the release of the movie) and last year they used The World according to Humphrey.

So that is how I discovered Humphrey!  When I reached the next bookshop I grabbed a copy and dived in. I will say that while I read heaps of books over the last three months The World according to Humphrey was one of the best! I read the whole book in just one afternoon but I did not want it to end. (I have now discovered there are several sequels so I will seek those out over the next few weeks.  I am so happy that I can be reunited with Humphrey.  He is an irresistible character.).

Humphrey is bought as a class pet by Mrs Mac.  He comes to live in Room 26.  As Humphrey says you can learn a lot about life by observing another species.  Humphrey cannot talk directly to the teacher or children or their parents, whom he visits on weekends, but he can understand what the humans are saying.  Humphrey is kind and very, very wise.  He has a huge impact on the lives of everyone he meets but Humphrey does have one huge problem.  The wonderful Mrs Mac leaves the class early into the term and the new teacher Mrs Brisbane is not happy about Humphrey.  “Is that some kind of rodent?  … I can’t stand rodents! Take it back! … The it she was talking about was me … Mister, you’ve got to go!”

Each chapter ends with a care tip and my copy of this book has a full list of these at the back along with an interview with the author and some puzzles and questions.  The children in the class are given great names by Humphrey – “Wait for the bell Garth”, “Raise your hand Heidi”, “Lower your voice AJ” and “Pay attention Art” to name a few.  As Humphrey himself would say this book made me smile, smile, smile.  It is the perfect book for children from Grade one to Grade four.
Here are two sets of teaching notes.  Finally if you enjoy this book (and I am certain you will!) then look for another story about a class pet like Humphrey - Shredder by Jonathan Kebbe.

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