A sixth-grade class unexpectedly gains—and promptly loses—a pet hamster in this enjoyably goofy series opener from O’Donnell (the Space Rocks! series). Sam Gibbs instantly bonds with the hamster that mysteriously appears in his classroom, which the kids name Hamstersaurus Rex. After escaping its cage, the mischievous, ravenous rodent grows into his name after gulping down the buffoonish gym coach’s bodybuilding supplement, Dinoblast Powerpacker, sprouting sharp fangs and a “lizard-y” tail. Chaos ensues as Sam attempts to protect the junk food–obsessed hamster from Beefer Vanderkoff, an oafish bully who threatens to feed Hammie Rex to his pet boa constrictor. It’s a brisk-moving and entertaining story, propelled by slapstick humor revolving around the hamster’s use of his newfound superpowers to save Sam from embarrassing situations, as well as Sam’s self-effacing asides and comical interactions with clueless adults and class know-it-all Martha. Miller’s (Snappsy the Alligator
) zippy b&w cartoons, allegedly sketched by Sam, are well-matched to the book’s offbeat sense of humor. Ages 8–12. Author’s agent: Noah Ballard, Curtis Brown. Illustrator’s agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Oct.)
This review has been updated to reflect current agent information.