Monday, March 30, 2015

MMGM: Imagination according to Humphrey by Betty G. Birney


Humphrey's eleventh adventure celebrates stories, writing, and the power of the imagination!

Imaginations are running wild in Mrs. Brisbane’s class, but Humphrey is stumped. His friends are writing about where they would go if they could fly, but Humphrey is HAPPY-HAPPY-HAPPY right where he is in Room 26.

It’s pawsitively easy for Humphrey to picture exciting adventures with dragons and knights in the story Mrs. Brisbane is reading aloud. He has no trouble coming up with Plans to help his friends and tricks to entertain them. His imagination even goes a little too far when he wonders if Carlos’s imaginary friend might be a ghost.

If only his imagination wouldn’t disappear when he tries to write. Luckily, Humphrey likes a challenge, and Mrs. Brisbane has lots of writing tips that do the trick.


I'm a huge fan of Betty Birney's Humphrey series.  One might suspect that after ten previous books that they would all start to sound the same, but to me they still feel fresh and fun.  Humphrey makes a great narrator as he shares his rather uniquely hamsterish view on the happenings in Mrs. Brisbane's classroom.  Humphrey is still helping his friends in class with their problems while furthering his own education.  Each volume in the series focuses on one major school subject, in this book the focus is on using one's imagination to write a fictional story.  Not only is the book fun but it would be great to use in a real classroom to help students learn to write their own stories.

Realistically speaking most modern classrooms are much more structured than Mrs. Brisbane's these days with so much emphasis on standardized testing.  It makes me quite sad really.  I have to wonder if we neglecting to help children develop their creative instincts.  But that's the advantage of fiction, the ability to ignore some of life's realities.  And since the story is being told by an animal, reality isn't the emphasis here, although, Humphrey behaves mostly like a real hamster, with his human friends never suspecting what he is really up to.  Once again Humphrey finds himself working to solve his own problem (coming up with his own story) while helping classmates (Sophie's feeling ignored by her family) and his animal friends (Gigi, the guinea pig down the hall).  A series that speaks to children in a lot of enjoyable and empathetic ways.

Our school used the first book in the series (The World According to Humphrey) as a One School, One Book read this year and a lot of students have thoroughly enjoyed it leading them to want to read other books in the series.

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