Authors: Lynne Jonell
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Text copyright © 2010 by Lynne Jonell
Illustrations copyright © 2010 by Brandon Dorman
All rights reserved.
Published in the United States by Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Hamster magic / by Lynne Jonell ; illustrated by Brandon Dorman. — 1st ed.
p. cm. — (A Stepping Stone book)
Summary: When the Willows move into a new house, Celia, the youngest of four children, traps an enchanted hamster, who reluctantly agrees to grant the children one wish in exchange for his freedom.
[1. Hamsters—Fiction. 2. Magic—Fiction. 3. Moving, Household—Fiction.]
I. Dorman, Brandon, ill. II. Title.
PZ7.J675Ha 2010 [E]—dc22 2009049076
Random House Children’s Books supports the First Amendment and celebrates the right to read.
To Devin, who reminded me that kids still believe in magic—L.J.
Many thanks to Julia Hoffner, who lent me her hamster!
t all started when the hamster escaped. Everyone thought it was Celia’s fault.
my fault,” she said. She looked at her big brothers and sister. She opened her blue eyes wide.
“Don’t bother to make puppy eyes,” said Derek, who was eight and impatient to be nine. “They don’t work on us.”
“Puppy eyes only work on grown-ups.” Tate was almost ten, and pretty, but she didn’t like
other people to talk about it. She flipped her dark brown ponytail over her shoulder and peered into the empty hamster cage. “How come you left the cage open?”
“I didn’t!” said Celia, stamping her foot. “I turned the latch like always, right after I fed him!”
Abner, who was the oldest and felt the burden of this, wiped Celia’s eyes. Then he gave her shoulder a gentle shake. “Dry up, will you?”
“And help us look for Hammy,” said Derek. “We don’t know all the hiding places in this house yet.”
But the hamster was nowhere to be found.
“That was our third hamster, too,” said Tate, curling up against the dryer like a cat. The four of them were in the laundry room, the last place they had tried. “The parents will never let us get another one.”
“They’ll blame me,” Abner said gloomily.
He drew his knees up to his chin. “They’ll say I’m responsible. Or if they don’t say it, they’ll
This was true, he felt, and not only because he was the oldest. He had been named after an elderly relative who had been some kind of hero a very long time ago. A painting of this relative, with a sword, hung in the museum in the city. Ever since Abner had been taken to see it, he had felt that he carried a heavy load.
“You’re not responsible. Celia is.” Derek kicked at a laundry basket, but it didn’t make him feel any better. He scrubbed at his straight, bristly hair and wished he could kick something more satisfying. A football, for instance. But football was best with a bunch of kids—and his friends were far away.
The move had been the hardest on Derek. Just one week ago, the Willow family had left
their comfortable old neighborhood, with its houses jammed right up next to each other. Derek had played a last game of street hockey, trying to ignore the men who were loading a moving van in his driveway. And then Mr. Willow honked the horn of the family car, and Derek climbed in and watched through the rear window until they turned a corner and his friends were gone.
“It’s only for a year,” his parents had said. “And you’ll love the house. It’s right in the country with lots of room to run around. Woods! A river!” But what Derek wanted most was a block full of kids who might want to toss a football, or shoot baskets, or play a little baseball down at the park.
After a long drive, the moving van had rumbled across a stone bridge. The Willows’ car followed it over a narrow river and up a
long, winding driveway to the top of a hill. And there was the house, three stories high, with a sprawling front porch and a toolshed and a big old barn, where they parked the car.
A thin belt of woods circled the house. When Derek ran to the edge of the trees and peered down, the few houses he saw were far away. True, the river was nearby. It curved around the base of the hill, and in one place it even widened into a swamp, which looked like fun. But there were no close neighbors at all.
And now there was no hamster.
“I’m telling you, I shut the latch!” Celia blinked three times, hard. She didn’t want everyone to think she was turning on the tears.
“We don’t really
a hamster,” said Tate, without conviction. She picked at the ragged edge of her sweatshirt. “Lots of kids go through life without one.”
alive,” said Abner. “We can’t get a good pet—like a dog—until we show we can take care of a little stupid one.”
“Hamsters aren’t stupid,” said Celia. She blinked twice more. “And Hammy the Third was the smartest of all.”
“So why did you go and lose him, then?” said Derek.
Celia was crying at last, but under the stairs, where no one could see her. It was true that she could turn on the tears as needed. But when she was crying for real, she liked to be private.
She really did miss Hammy. Unlike Hammy the First, he did not hide and snuffle under a cloth all day long. And he was not stupid enough to walk off a table when she let him out for a little exercise, like the hapless Hammy the Second. No, Hammy the Third was different.
Maybe it was because they hadn’t gotten him from a pet store. They had found him on moving day. He was cowering in the cellar behind a bag of Woofies dog biscuits the previous owner had left behind. A corner had been chewed open and a biscuit pulled out, and Celia thought this was clever of Hammy.
A hamster that had lived on its own just had to be smarter, in Celia’s opinion. Hammy the Third was an alert little rodent who always listened carefully when she talked. He had never talked back, but Celia was sure that was only because he was shy.
She had been trying to teach him how to open the door of his cage. She had thought he would be grateful. And if a hamster was grateful, maybe he would say “thank you.” And then he would not be shy anymore, and she would have someone to talk to who was littler than she was.
Celia wanted that very much. She was tired of being the baby of the family. But now that Hammy had opened the door of his cage by himself and escaped, she was still the baby—only hamsterless.
Celia stopped crying, hiccupped, and sniffled twice. Her last sniffle seemed more like a squeak, for some reason. She paused, thinking about this, and the squeak came again.
It was close. It sounded like Hammy.
Celia felt around in the dark beneath the stairs, where the suitcases were stacked in a row. The squeaking was louder now, and she heard a small bumping noise. She put her ear next to the small suitcase her mother used for short trips and listened. It sounded very much like a tiny voice squeaking “Lemmee out! Lemmee out! Lemmee out!”