does not describe me fully
it is where to start

Sunday, November 22, 2009

What Humberto, the Bookworm Hamster, Taught Me

Okay, admit it, who among you was called a bookworm at some point? I’ll raise my hand. When I was a kid, I even used to take a flashlight to bed so I could read under the covers. I still find myself surrounded by books, with their bookmarks at various stages of progress. So when I recently came across the children's book Humberto, the Bookworm Hamster by Mayra Calvani, my interest was piqued. After reading it, I found myself measuring my life against it.

I guess, at heart, I must still be the targeted 4-8-year-old reader. From the start, Mayra Calvani easily drew me into the tale of Humberto the hamster who loves, just loves, books. He turns down invitations from the squirrel, rabbit, and beaver because “I don’t have time. I’m too busy reading.” He reads while he eats, while he exercises on his wheel, even while he brushes his teeth. Rather than play with others, Humberto prefers to have his books transport him to a Paris café, the Egyptian pyramids or Saturn's rings. Then a storm causes disastrous flooding in his neighborhood, and Humberto’s books are about to be swept away. Tempted to focus on rescuing his books, he turns his attention instead to finding food and shelter for his friends. In the process, he learns the true meaning and joy of friendship.

As a self-admitted bookworm, I had expected to find Calvani’s book interesting. What I did not expect was that this beautifully illustrated children’s tale would apply so resoundingly to my current life, particularly my blogging life. Since I began blogging, I have been struck by how much fun it is to write for my blog and also to read other blogs. I can be carried off for hours and, in the meantime, dinner is not prepared, clothes are not washed, my dear husband has not received a hug, and friends and family have not heard from me. Humberto is a powerful reminder that we are social beings in the flesh and not just on the page.


A Cuban In London said...

i loved this post because I identify myself with Humberto. I, too, was (am) a bookworm.

And as for blogging, like you, I had to regulate it. Now I post usually three times per week, which leaves me plenty of time to visit other blogs and read material to prepare my own posts, besides having a life. :-)

As for Chimamanda, thanks for your latest comments. What impacted me most was how she loved her own characters. I sometimes feel that authors, once they develop their dramatis personae, stop caring about them, they become almost a nuisance. With Ngozi, I did not feel like that at any point. Even Richard, who could have a caricature of a British man (especially with his impotence problems) was so nuanced and balanced that I felt pity for him at the end. Great novel.

Many thanks.

Greetings from London.

Mayra Calvani said...

Dear Judy,

Thank you so much for such a beautifully written, thoughtful review! It really made my day!

kathy stemke said...

This is a great reminder of how effective a good picture book can be. The lessons taught by them are for all ages. Thanks for a great review and a great picture book!

Anonymous said...

Wow Judy, you really took the story and made it real life for me. I also identified with the "bookworm" in me and couldn't see what was wrong with him in the first place. ha ha Now with your insight, I understand much better. Thank you for your insight and the courage to speak about yourself.
Jo Ann Hernandez
BronzeWord Latino Authors

Kathryn Magendie said...

I have been having the same thoughts of my life - spinning and spinning and spinning as I do book events, as I try to twitter and blog and facebook, as I try to write the next book - on and on it goes, and meanwhile, there is the big beautiful world out there I want to experience: GMR, and friends, and nature....

love this post and review

and yes, I was and am a bookworm!

Mayra Calvani said...

Hi again, Judy,

I didn't realize you played the violin. I just saw the photo.

My daughter and I have been playing it for 6 years now. We love it.

Nevine said...

Oh, Judith, bookworm indeed! I'll have to raise my hand to that as well - I do admit to being the same.

In your description of your reading experience of "Humberto, the Bookworm Hamster" I feel entirely your connection with Humberto, as you see yourself so eloquently in his character. I have never read this book, but I do have to say that based on your description, I can also see myself in Humberto. And I do know what you mean about feeling carried away by the blogging experience. When I first started, I never imagined it would turn into something I do so regularly, now. But it's such an enriching experience. Even if we have never met one another in the flesh, getting to know one another through our reaching communications based on our similar interests is so exciting and educational. We learn a lot about not only the other, but also about who we are.

Judith, your posts always keep me thinking, and that is why I enjoy coming here so much. Keep it coming, although I do feel for the hubby and the waiting laundry - I have the same to worry about!


Judith Mercado said...

I lasted about 24 hours in my resolution not to check reader comments. I guess the Humberto lesson needs more work or maybe I need to join a 12-step program.

Cuban: As I suspected several of my readers are bookworms so you’re in great company. And thanks again for suggesting Half a Yellow Sun. Amazing book.

Mayra Calvani: I’m so glad I made your day. Humberto as you can tell is still resonating with me.

Kathy Stemke: Yes, a good book appeals across the age spectrum.

Jo Ann: Thanks for turning me onto this gem of a book that continues to surprise as its lessons come up for me during the day.

Kathryn Magendie: Is being a bookworm a prerequisite to being a novelist? Sometimes I think that may be so. Am enjoying your Tender Graces.

Nevine: Blogging is fun, I tell myself, but one can get a tummy ache from indulging in too much cake, but then I get to know a wonderful blogger like you and I’m captivated again by the process.

Sheila Deeth said...

Oh dear. Sounds like me too.

A Cuban In London said...

Happy Thanksgiving to you and you family, too! (although belatedly).

Greetings from London.

Elizabeth Mahlou said...

Just wanted to say, Happy Thanksgiving!