Hot Rod Hamster, written by Cynthia Lord and illustrated by Derek Anderson, is an excellent choice for preschoolers. It's about a young hamster determined to take part in a car race against a variety of much larger animals. He doesn't care that he's smaller - he just wants to "burn rubber!".
The text is written with a combination of energetic rhyming couplets, punchy dialog, and a repeated question for the reader. While I initially found the mixture a bit difficult to read aloud, I came to realize that the dialog bubbles and questions make the book highly interactive for preschoolers. For example, whenever the hamster has a choice to make, the reader gets to make the choice, too (and before seeing the hamster's selection). For example:
"Smooth wheels, stud wheels, driving through the mud wheels,
Fat wheels, thin wheels, take her for a spin wheels.
Which would you choose?"
The hot rod hamster is a most engaging character. His expressions range from optimistic to determined to and downright joyful. I think that toddler audiences will be able to relate. His enthusiasm comes through in his dialog ("Vroom-vroom" and "Now I'm ready to ROLL!"), helped along by the use of bright colors and large fonts for the most energetic text.
But it's Derek Anderson's illustrations that bring the hamster (and his support team) to life. There's one page where he's getting his car painted, and something is still missing. He leaps into the air shouting "FLAMES!" (in flame-colored text), mouth open wide and eyes squeezed shut. He's positively giddy - his excitement leaps from the page. The acrylic illustrations are brimming forth with bright colors, varied expressions, and amusing details (like the mouse roasting marshmallows of pictures of flames).
In short, Hot Rod Hamster is a delight from start to finish, sure to please preschoolers, and make their parents smile, too. Highly recommended!
Publication Date: 40
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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