October 13, 2005

(++++) FUZZY FUN

Hamsters to the Rescue. By Ellen Stoll Walsh. Harcourt. $16.

The Great Fuzz Frenzy. By Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel. Illustrated by Janet Stevens. Harcourt. $17.

     Kids ages 3-7 are big fans of all things fuzzy, from carpet fuzz to fuzzy stuffed animals to fuzzy real animals.  There is lots of fuzzy and funny stuff in these two books, in which adorably fuzzy critters have adventures with feathers and…well…fuzz.

     The feather adventure is Hamsters to the Rescue, which features adorably fuzzy Henry and Pell racing pell-mell (or pell-henry) to help a seagull who appears to be losing the feathers he needs to fly.  The helpful hamsters find it not as easy as they thought to recover a missing feather: They catch it, then they lose it, then they find out that seagulls eat certain small creatures, then the feather gets damaged, then they come face to face (or face to beak) with the seagull, and THEN…well, the seagull certainly doesn’t want to eat Henry and Pell, and in fact makes them a gift of some additional feathers so they can play seagull games instead of being plain earthbound hamsters.  Everything works out happily – and Ellen Stoll Walsh includes a search-for-the-shells game at the end that will encourage kids to go through the book again.

     Everything turns out well in The Great Fuzz Frenzy, too, but this is a more complex book with more plot twists and a distinct moral.  The book is based loosely – very loosely – on fact: Janet Stevens’ dog once dropped a tennis ball into a prairie-dog hole.  That got Stevens and her sister, Susan Stevens Crummel, wondering how prairie dogs might react to this big round fuzzy thing in their midst…and The Great Fuzz Frenzy was born, complete with foldout pages showing the ball going deeper and deeper into the prairie dogs’ burrow.  The story unfolds as a morality tale, involving little but brave Pip Squeak, big and loud-mouthed and mean Big Bark, and lots of prairie dogs determined to decorate themselves in stylish tennis-ball fuzz.  The ball, of course, ends up fuzzless – but that’s not the end of the story, which takes a turn in a dangerous direction as Big Bark takes the fuzz from all the sleeping prairie dogs, bedecks himself with it, and as a result catches the eye of a passing eagle.  He gets away, though, and the whole colony learns a lesson, and Big Bark’s big bark is put to good use.  The eagle in a tennis-ball-fuzz wig is but one of the delightful illustrations that help bring this charming tale to enthusiastically fuzzy life.

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