The Misadventures of Sweetie Pie

Chris Van Allsburg. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $18.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-547-31582-9
Thinking of getting a hamster? Read this first. Caldecott Medalist Van Allsburg chronicles the bleak existence of Sweetie Pie, neglected by one child after another. The hamster’s first owner prefers screen time and sells Sweetie Pie to a boy with a hostile dog—readers receive a close-up, rodent’s-eye view of the dog’s slavering jaws. Next comes Cousin Sue, a girl with malicious eyes, who forces her pet into a clear plastic ball and rolls him down a hill (“Exhausted, Sweetie Pie waited for the girl to rescue him, but she never came”). Eventually, the hamster does time as a school pet. At the holidays, a boy promises “to take care of him,” only to forget him on a playground as snow begins to fall; Sweetie Pie sinks “into a deep and frigid sleep.” Van Allsburg does not play for laughs or pull his punches: when a teacher suggests that a kind child must have saved the icy hamster, “The children knew better.” Sweetie Pie’s grim and all-too-realistic experience raises ethical dilemmas, and a squirrel-ex-machina conclusion offers a happy ending, but little comfort. Ages 4–8. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/22/2014
Release date: 11/04/2014
Genre: Children's
Open Ebook - 32 pages - 978-0-544-46508-4
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