cover image I, FREDDY


Dietlof Reiche, Hamster Reiche, , trans. from the German by John Brownjohn, illus. by Joe Cepeda. . Scholastic, $15.95 (208pp) ISBN 978-0-439-28356-4

This debut volume of the Golden Hamster Saga opens as the titular rodent begins writing (on a computer, it is later revealed) his life story. Freddy flashes back to his days in a pet shop, where, fed up from being crammed into a cage with biting, shoving "tread-wheel freaks" he proclaims, "I must find a buyer." When the next customer walks in, Freddy sits up and waves his forepaw, clinching the sale to the father of six-year-old Sophie. Once settled in Sophie's bedroom, Freddy, who can understand humans, sets some ambitious goals: he wants to learn to read and to find a way to open his cage so he can explore the books in the house. After Sophie's ill-humored mother has an allergic reaction to the girl's new pet, Freddy goes to live with a family friend, an easygoing fellow who—wryly—is named Mr. John and translates books from German to English. There, Freddy is befriended by a pet tomcat and taunted by a pair of guinea pigs whose wisecracking rhymes may well annoy readers as much as they do Freddy. Brownjohn's translation reads smoothly and captures the considerable wit of the narrative. Spare yet comical, Cepeda's line art reveals endearing views of Freddy and some inventive shots of his surroundings. At tale's start, Freddy wonders, "Is my story worth putting down on paper?" Readers are apt to respond affirmatively. Ages 8-12. (May)