Friday, 9 August 2013

ReadItDaddy's Book of the Week - Week ending 9th August 2013 - "Help a Hamster (Copper Tree Book Series)" by Hilary Robinson and Mandy Stanley (Strauss House Productions)

Wow! What a lovely book! We haven't come across the Copper Tree Book Series before but are so glad we did.

This week's book of the week from legendary children's book author Hilary Robinson, and super-talented illustrator Mandy Stanley, is from a series designed to help children and parents tackle tough and sensitive issues in a way that is both engaging and comprehensible to children of all ages, even the very young.

Dealing with adoption, "Help a Hamster" tells the story of Alfie and his classmates who have a pet hamster called Henry at school. When Henry unexpectedly gives birth (!), Alfie - who was adopted as a baby - comes up with a great plan so that the hamster babies, including one tiny and sad little one they name "Alfonzo", all go to a loving and caring home.

When we read books that deal with difficult subjects, the best part often happens when the book is closed and discussions spring from the subject matter. Here, Charlotte wanted to know about adoption and of course wanted to know more about one of the most difficult questions the book raises - why Alfie's mum would give him up when he was a tiny baby.

Hilary Robinson handles this and many other questions with sensitivity and care. Alfie has a book all about his life, and his adopted mother shows this to the class - giving them the idea to make a book for Alfonzo (with possibly the cutest photo of a baby hamster you're ever likely to see!)

For me, the best bit of the book came when we went home with Alfie. His mum decides that they should adopt Alfonzo, and so they take him home to introduce him to Alfie's family including his brothers and sisters. That double-page spread is utterly wonderful but I'll leave you to find out why.

For Charlotte, the book achieved its aim and then some. Knowing a little bit more about adoption, and having questions of her own (including some that, as a parent, are really tough to answer - for instance how would you handle the question "Who would adopt me if anything happened to you and mummy?") we could refer to the book's story and talk it all out.

We're now very interested in the rest of the Copper Tree range, particularly a book that talks about old age and loss (Christmas Surprise) and also the one that tackles a very tricky subject that's never far from the headlines at the moment - food banks.

It's a fantastic range, a fitting book of the week, brilliantly written and illustrated. Do not miss it!

Charlotte's best bit: Learning all about adoption and cooing at the lovely photo of baby Alfonzo.

Daddy's favourite bit: A sensitively written and wonderfully illustrated book that achieves its core aims beautifully, and leads to brilliant discussions about adoption and more.

(Kindly sent to us for review by Hilary Robinson / Strauss House)