What better way to celebrate a week long, record-breaking heatwave than to read?

Title: Hot Rod Hamster
Author: Cynthia Lord
Illustrator: Derek Anderson
ISBN: 9780545035309
Pages: Unpaged
Publisher/Date: Scholastic Press, c2010.

This rollicking read finds Hamster wanting to enter the hot rod race. The only problem is, he doesn’t have a hot rod. Upon entering a junk yard, he’s assisted by a bull dog and a trio of mice, who present him with options of what he could have for his car, tires, engine, and paint job. On race day, who will win and what sort of trophy will the winner pick?

Readers will not want to miss the jacket papers, which begin and end the story. These are not your typical animal characters. Hamster has a jaunty little mohawk, and the bull dog has a spiked collar. The mice (I think I’m just going to assume their not rats) also have their own personality, with one sporting glasses and a clipboard and another wearing a baseball cap that covers his eyes in every scene. With rhyming verse the narration clips along, prompting kids to make their own choices before the page turn reveals what Hamster decided. Interspersed are conversations between Hamster and Dog through the use of cartoonish speach bubbles.

This book definitely prompts read-alouds, preferably with a group of children who can enthusiastically contribute to the Vroom, Vroom that Hamster says when picking his engine. The faces are expressive, whether it’s Hamster gritting his teeth before the big race or the mice struggling to make the necessary adjustments. It’s refreshing that Hamster wears a helmet in the race, along with about half the other competitors.

This is another picture book that’s getting a lot of use by people at my library, so hot rod it over to the library and check it out.