cover image Sammy: The Classroom Guinea Pig

Sammy: The Classroom Guinea Pig

Alix Berenzy. Henry Holt & Company, $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-4024-1

Guinea pigs like to munch fresh-cut grass. They puff up their fur when frightened, and they make 11 different sounds, of which ""wheep"" is often reserved for humans. Berenzy (My Kingdom for a Horse) sprinkles these facts throughout this endearing story (and in an endnote), ideal for children who want to learn more about these furry pets. Sammy resides in Ms. B's classroom. Rendered in soft-focus pastels and colored pencils, Sammy, with his pink smile, floppy ears and inquisitive nose looks so lifelike that he almost waddles off the page. When Sammy starts ""wheeping"" one day, the class tries to figure out what's wrong. Ms. B examines him, but he's not sick or hungry. No one knows how to help Sammy until one girl, Maria, intuits that he's lonely and solves the problem with a little love. Berenzy's writing can feel forced; she weaves in so much information on guinea pigs that the story at times reads like a care-and-feeding manual. The passages told from Sammy's point of view are more fluid, adding considerable warmth (""Sammy was glad when Maria picked him up and cuddled him. Her sweater was soft and warm""). In fact, with a character as snuggly as Sammy, this book should come with a parental warning label: Kids who read this book will clamor for a guinea pig of their own. Ages 5-9.