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Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Great Pet Escape, by Victoria Jamieson. Henry Holt and Company, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2016. $8.99 ages 6 and up

"It's working! The wall is
Now we just need some sort of
superstrong force to hit the wall
right here on the cracks ...
Oh no. No. I don't use my
strength anymore. I use
my words, not my fists.
Come on, Sunflower! You're
the strongest one in here!
I don't punch things anymore!"

Pets in a classroom can be a worthwhile learning experience for many students. Of course, allergies may prevent having one. If you chance to try it, know that escape can be a taxing occurrence, as is the case in this graphic novel. Then again, you and your students may not even have an inkling that it has happened.

George Washington, class hamster and unhappy detainee, has been working for long hours to free himself from the 'terrible prison' he finds himself in. In reality, it's a second-grade classroom and a comfortable cage with all the amenities ... clean bedding, plenty of food, and a glut of attention. He spends his time working on an escape machine so that he might find his pals Barry (bunny) and Biter (guinea pig) and spring them from whatever prisons hold them captive. Finally, the Escape-o-Matic is ready to be tested. It works, and GW is off to free his friends!

It just so happens that those friends are not as eager for escape as GW expects them to be. Barry leaves his grade one detention to lead GW to the nether regions of Daisy P. Flugelhorn Elementary School where they find their once-tenacious and exceptionally tough furry friend Biter (now calling herself Sunflower) in the KINDERGARTEN classroom. She has been changed by her experiences there.

"Something was bothering me - besides Biter's evident
 frontal lobotomy - but I couldn't quite put my paw on it ...
Wait a SECOND! Your cage wasn't locked!
We don't believe in "locks" in our shared learning community."

Too funny by far! Playing on Biter's loyalty to her long-time friends, GW finally convinces her to leave with them. He is in the midst of presenting his foolproof plan when another voice is heard  ... it seems the upper elementary pets are in charge! Fourth grade white mice, accompanied by an obedient snake named Lucinda (from fifth grade) , bring that escape to a halt. Once again captured and caged, they must plot another escape, this time together and with total effectiveness.

The writing is clever and humorous, the dialogue witty and crisp, and the art is fabulous. Full of expression, bold color, terrific characters and it's just right for those early readers looking for something to read that is a bit more demanding, while also hugely entertaining.  I am a big fan of her work.

Perfect fare for a younger crowd than those who loved her very popular Roller Girl (Dial, 2015), I can't wait to see Olympig which was just reprinted by Puffin in July this year!

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