A Place to Call Home, written by Alexis Deacon and illustrated by Viviane Schwarz AND 10 Minutes till Bedtime, written and illustrated by Peggy Rathmann

Viviane Schwarz just happens to be the author and illustrator of one of my favorite picture books, Timothy and the Strong Pajamas, which is about a furry little creature and the magical strength he acquires after his mother patches his favorite pajamas. Schwarz is also the author of the very, very fun and funny duo There Are Cats in this Book and There Are No Cats in this Book, which track the exploits of a trio of playful cats and have very cool flaps and folds to interact with. With A Place to Call Home, Alexis Deacon tells the story of a family of hamsters who have outgrown their cozy home, the only home they have ever known, and how they handle their foray into the wide, weird world.
Snoozing Siblings

Leaving their homey-hole is scary so the hamsters decide that they need some small, portable holes to carry with and comfort them as they search for a new home. They end up with an interesting assortment of things on their heads (tea cup, glove, paper towel tube, boot) which makes the search quite difficult. On top of that, they have no idea what they are encountering each step of the way.

The top of the washer seems to be the frightening edge of the world to this little band of furry brothers. Not to mention the alert junkyard dog nearby. When he trots off with one of their pack they throw off their holes and attack. Their success leads them to a new hole - in the fence! Through this hole they see the "whole world" (a very nice landscape photo in an otherwise hand drawn book) and they feel at home.

A PLACE TO CALL HOME. Text copyright © 2011 by Alexis Deacon. Illustrations copyright © 2011 by Vivian Schwarz. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.
For another crazy gang of hamsters, don't miss a long time favorite in my home, 10 Minutes till Bedtime.

I think I was conditioned to love a picture book that has a plethora of infinite details in every page spread  by the abundance of Richard Scarry book in my childhood home (I WILL find you on every page one of these days, Goldbug!!) Perhaps this is why I am so fond of Peggy Rathmann's magnificent book first published in 1998 (it is available in paperback AND lap book, which is the oversized board book format) 10 Minutes till Bedtime. The only text in the book is a father counting down each minute to bedtime as a child - boy? girl? we never really decided in my home - basically sets up the equivalent of a hamster amusement park while also completing bedtime tasks like bathing, brushing teeth, peeing and getting on jammies.

What begins as a bit of fun with when the kid's pet hamster starts a bus tour through bedtime almost swells out of control when more and more tourists arrive. The original group, which includes a mom, dad and ten kids, each with a striped and numbered jersey, are the ones to watch.

Over many, many readings of this book my kids and I have noticed that Number 9 is always somewhere high up. Number 8 is always half hidden by something or other and a big, furry bottom is all that can be seen. Number 5 is usually up to something with a paperclip fishing hook and the baby, Number 10, is often chasing a balloon.
Also fun to spot are familiar things from home like animal and goldfish crackers as well as teeny-tiny hamster umbrella stroller and training potty.

And, the final super fun thing to spot are Rathmann's references to her other books, Officer Buckle and Gloria and Goodnight Gorilla, along with self-references to 10 Minutes till Bedtime! Don't miss a very fun website devoted to the fuzzy visitors, HamsterTours.

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