I first met Humphrey the Classroom Hamster five or six years ago when my boys were in maybe third or fourth grade. In my never-ending quest for books we could read aloud as a family, I dragged home the first book in the series, The World According to Humphrey. The boys enjoyed the humor and the funny way Humphrey (who is the narrator of all the books) repeats himself when excited ("I love love love carrots!"). We parents enjoyed smooth, readable prose and a sound message that doesn't come across as preachy (always a risk with kids' books). Humphrey uses daring, ingenuity, and reasoning (often with very little data, as hamsters don't know very much about how the human world works, especially when fresh out of Pet World) to help the children of Room 26 with their problems.
Humphrey never lets the humans know that he can read, write, and understand everything they say--nor that he can escape his cage at will and roam the school at night. Somehow, the fact that he can't talk, and that he makes so many erroneous assumptions about what people mean when they do and say strange things, keeps him from being too cute and too anthropomorphic to tolerate. His solutions to problems are creative, and if they are also unrealistically effective, that's in the nature of the books. I mean, you don't look for total realism in a book written by a hamster.
Writing level is on the easier end for Middle Grade--a third-grader should be able to read the books comfortably, and by about fifth grade they will probably have outgrown it (for my non-U.S. readers, that's ages about 8-10).
I highly recommend the series for boys or girls, for solo reading or read-alouds.
Now hop on over and see who else is reviewing kids' books today!
In other news. . . pop on over to Karen's Different Corners and check out her review of The Ninja Librarian. Last fall I participated in her "Judging a Book by it's Cover" series of posts looking at different book covers, and she has kindly gone on to read and review my book (rather than being put off by the cover, which is hopefully going to get a revision soon). Thanks, Karen, for the kind review!