Surprises According to Humphrey by Betty G. Birney has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the fourth book in the "Humphrey" series.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Humphrey the classroom hamster observes how the students in Mrs. Brisbane's class are moving tiredly to decorate the room for spring. When the fire alarm goes off, Mrs. Brisbane allows her students to take their classroom pets with them. The rulebook says to drop everything and leave in case of a fire, but she isn't sure whether this is a drill and wants the animals to be safe.
Mrs. Wright, another teacher, reprimands Mrs. Brisbane, while Jeff the visiting fireman explains to the children that it's part of the firemen's job to rescue pets. Jeff later returns to review fire safety with the class. One student, Heidi, talks out of turn as usual, and Mrs. Brisbane is particularly frustrated with her.
The next day, Garth scribbles an insulting note to his best friend, A. J. Humphrey soon learns that Garth is upset over being picked last to play ball at recess, even though he's not good at sports. A new janitor arrives to clean the room in the evening. She is a girl wearing a hoodie and headphones. Humphrey is confused by the wires in her ears and is convinced she is an alien who abducted the usual janitor, Aldo.
Garth gets permission to take Humphrey for the weekend. He puts Humphrey in the hamster ball while his family works in the yard, and Humphrey accidentally rolls himself down a hill, under a bush and within the reach of a cat. He is protected by the hamster ball but also cannot roll away. As the sun goes down, Garth's parents call A. J. and his younger sister over to help look for Humphrey, who is eventually found and brought inside. A. J. ends up spending the night. Watching Humphrey practice running in the ball, A. J. mends his friendship with Garth by offering to play catch with him as practice for recess.
Humphrey discovers the alien-janitor is actually Aldo's niece, who was filling in for him while he studied for a Spanish test to become a teacher. Mrs. Brisbane plans a special day after the class takes tests. On this day, none of the rules apply — namely, if anyone forgets to raise his or her hand to answer a question, the rest of the class gets to make monkey noises. Heidi soon gets frustrated when she can't be heard and learns why it's important to raise her hand.
Over spring break, Humphrey stays at Mrs. Brisbane's house. Mr. Brisbane is in a wheelchair due to an accident the previous year, and he takes Humphrey to his former rehabilitation center to visit the residents.
Back in school, Humphrey realizes Mrs. Brisbane is underappreciated. He writes a suggestion to throw Mrs. Brisbane a surprise party, which is later put in the principal's suggestion box. The whole school works together to make the party a reality.
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Readability Age Range
7 to 9
Betty G. Birney
Puffin Books, a division of Penguin Books
A BookSense Pick, Kansas State Reading Circle Recommended Reading List, California Collection Selection