School Days According to Humphrey

by Betty G. Birney (2005)

A Sweet Spot selection. 

School Days According to Humphrey returns readers to Mrs. Brisbane’s classroom, Room 26 of Longfellow School. Students identify and relate more directly when authors connect with recognizable aspects of their daily classroom environment, things that are funny along with things that are annoying or emotionally challenging. It’s what the Humphrey series is really about.

In School Days, we meet Hurry-Up-Harry, Tall-Paul and Small-Paul, Helpful-Holly and Rolling-Rosie, each of whom has identifying personality traits, strengths, weaknesses, and challenges.

Hurry-Up-Harry is always late. Is it his parents’ fault? Is he just so observant that he gets distracted? Why does he dawdle? This may sound like a pedestrian concern, but Betty Birney sets it up so that students and families empathize with both Harry and his teacher, and especially with Humphrey as he schemes to help Harry solve his problem.

In fact, Humphrey somehow wants to solve everyone’s problems. He’s not the classroom pet – he’s the classroom therapist!

Some students, like Small-Paul, confide in Humphrey:

“Just my bad luck, Humphrey, having another Paul in the class… He would have to be tall… Have you noticed? He’s always showing off how tall he is.”

Rolling-Rosie, who uses a wheelchair, wants to be more independent:

“I don’t think I need an assistant,” she explained. “I can do almost everything myself… I know Holly wants to help, but she helps way too much. She helps me when there’s no problem at all. Sometimes, she gets in the way.”

The Humphrey books work their magic because Humphrey goes home with various members of the school community on the weekends. Students love the hamster’s window into the life of each new family: what they eat for dinner, how they watch TV, how the siblings and family members interact. Humphrey books are like a crystal ball for elementary school life.

Most schools that read Humphrey end up pining for their own classroom hamsters. But students also relish Humphrey’s hamster-eye view on his school. He even sneaks out of his cage explores the school at night.

Humphrey has all the ingredients of a winning character: witty, sympathetic, endearing. That’s why families and schools often come back to read more Humphrey titles. Read to Them will always be there to provide program materials to celebrate Humphrey – his friends, his wisdom – and the joy of reading together as a community.

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