If you feel like curling up and hibernating one Sunday with a book, a blanket, and your children in their animal onesies, you would do well to choose this children’s story about a brave little hamster called Horatio.

Horatio and Pip live in a typical domestic hamster cage. This easy, cosy life is enough for Pip, but Horatio craves adventure in the big wide world. He certainly finds adventure, and more besides, when he stows away in his owner’s suitcase for a trip to Venice.

Horatio is soon boldly exploring Venice’s exotic streets and canals. He hatches a plan to become a gondolier, but some unexpected events throw him into the world of the Venetian mice clan and their rivals, the cats and the Pirate Rats. Will Horatio summon the courage to lead his new friends into battle against their enemies?

Horatio’s craving for freedom and exploration is exhilarating and beautifully described. The story goes at an exciting pace and along the way we meet plenty of memorable animals, accompanied by Anna Krupa’s characterful pen and ink drawings.

The author does not shy away from life’s big experiences. As with the classic Grimm’s Fairy Tales, the story of Horatio’s adventure introduces the reader to all of these concepts: fear, betrayal, freedom, war, shame; and even death and the first pangs of love. There is also a lot of emphasis on the physical fighting in the latter stages of the story. For these reasons, I would not choose this book for very young children, but would recommend it for readers aged six and upwards, depending on their maturity.

Certainly my six-year-old godson would love this action-packed tale of the brave little underdog and his battle for freedom. And parents too will enjoy stepping off their own busy hamster wheel and engaging instead with Horatio’s vivid adventure.

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