The Misadventures of Sweetie Pie

Image of The Misadventures of Sweetie Pie
Release Date: 
December 3, 2014
HMH Books for Young Readers
Reviewed by: 

A darkly humorous picture book for adults tired of sweet and overly optimistic, and for kids who need to be scared—at least temporarily—into proper pet husbandry.

Chris Van Allsburg’s The Misadventures of Sweetie Pie is the latest from the Caldecott-winning author of many extraordinary works including The Polar Express, Jumanji, and another dark favorite, The Sweetest Fig

Action-packed and cautionary, the story is told from the point of view of a long-suffering, curmudgeonly hamster. A little girl coos, “‘Aren’t you my little sweetie pie?’ Since it was the only time he was let out of his small cage, he pretended to like it.”

Sweetie Pie is purchased from the pet store only to be relentlessly neglected, overfed, traded, underfed, terrorized by other pets, and gifted to Cousin Sue. Possibly sociopathic, she dresses him in doll clothes, and later rolls “the nervous hamster” inside a plastic ball. “He shot along the sidewalk, picking up speed as he raced downhill.”

Fortunately he lands in a pile of leaves. “Exhausted, Sweetie Pie waited for the girl to rescue him, but she never came.”

Sweetie Pie finally becomes the class pet at a school, only to be left out in the cold and snow overnight by the kid designated to keep him during the holiday vacation.

But this is not that dark of a story.

Spoiler Alert: Even though the book may be based on an unpleasant true experience, as it is dedicated to the memory of Marmalade and Little Gray, Sweetie Pie triumphs in the end! That’s the beauty of children’s fiction, softening the world (in the case of pet rodents, the brutish and short-lived world) just enough. While this book may cause the soft-hearted to despair, the right young and old readers will appreciate the ride and the message.