Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Hamster Sam's Return is a fun and spacey ride!

  When "Hamster Sam" came out a little over three years ago, it seemed creator Dave McDonald hit on a great character with a great story model and a slick, animated look. Plans were then made to send Sam into space.
Three years later, Dave said the story and the format went through several changes to create and finish  Hamster S.A.M.  Odd-ventures in Space! The first thing noticeably different from the first book is the size- a smaller format, but more pages. And no color this time around- a cost-saving measure that keeps the price of the book at $9.99 for 101 pages. Compared to the original book with 32 pages for $15.95, losing the color and gaining more story is a definite win for the reader.

Hamster Sam creator Dave McDonald sketching at the Union West Mini-Con in 2010.
 With more room for the story, Sam is reunited with Miles the inch worm, and new characters Louise and Clark (younger, curious hamsters) and Fescue (a mullet adorned field mouse). As in the first adventure, the book is full of silly gags and puns that are sure to make many adults groan and smile at the same time, while the "gross-out" jokes (or "gags"- get it?) involving bad food, sneezes and other humorous bodily functions will have kids cringing and laughing at the same time.

 Sam's storyline is loose and not very deep- it is paced out more like an old Looney Toons cartoon with many little asides, and really serves more as a vehicle to introduce us to the new characters, set up all sorts of jokes, and work in classroom elements into the book in a way that doesn't come across as rigid or textbook. This is the arena in which Dave's book really shines and sets itself apart from so many other graphic novels on the market. Teachers, homeschoolers and other educators- you can use this book as a doorway into science, space exploration, and history (and maybe even Elvis!). And kids, even if your teachers don't use the book to discuss these topics, it may encourage you to explore and learn on your own. There is a segment called "Hamsternauts Through History" that mirrors history so closely, only the names have been changed. Hamster Sam and Fescue explore what gravity does, how astronauts eat, and even the cost of space flight. Along with all of that, Dave offers up great vocabulary words like abacus, sanitation, resourceful, ingredients, atmosphere, tambourine, suede, and participle just to name a few. Throw in an interview with NASA astronaut Col. Gregory H. Johnson that is off-beat but yields space and astronaut information kids have likely not read before, and add in a couple art lessons on creating characters from simple shapes and designing aliens and teachers have lesson ideas for for all kinds of creative activities.

Younger readers from grades two (and proficient readers in first grade) to four will find the book fun and challenging, while kids in fifth and sixth grades will find the book to be a funny, escapist story that may prompt them to explore further. I highly recommend this book, especially for the early elementary crowd!

The book will "launch" for sale at the Baltimore Comic Con, Sept. 7 & 8, and will be available through Amazon.com, Follett Library Resources, Ingram, Baker & Taylor, Barnes & Noble.com so librarians, school librarians and teachers should be able to find the book.

 You can visit Dave McDonald and Hamster Sam at http://www.davemcdonald.com/ . Dave is also on Facebook- https://www.facebook.com/pages/Hamster-Sam/67932248561?ref+hl Twitter- @DaveMcDonald4U and on instagram.

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