Hamster Princess: Harriet the Invincible
by Ursula Vernon
Related Activities & Resources:
Ursula Vernon Biography:
Dragonbreath/Hamster Princess Website:
Information on the Sequel Hamster Princess-Of Mice and Magic:
What is a Graphic Novel?:
The Best Graphic Novels for Children:
What elements make up a graphic novel? If you lose one of those elements, how does it affect the story?
Graphic novels use both words and images. Pick a page from this book and think through what you learn from just the words. Think about what you learn from just the images. Are they telling you the same information, or are they giving you different information? How do they work together?
Read Snow White and discuss what elements could be carried into the graphic novel.
What elements that are normally in a Fairy Tale are contained in Hamster Princess?
What was the curse of Ratshade?
What three things were added to the curse?
What else would you have added to the curse?
If the curse was on you, would you want to know? Why or why not?
If you knew nothing could hurt you, what would you want to do?
What things did Harriet do when she found out she was invincible?
If you could take something or someone with you on your adventure, who or what would it be?
When Harriet returned home, what did she find?
What did she have to do to find a Prince?
Everyone said Harriet should act like a proper princess. What do you think that meant? Has that changed over time?
Would you make a good Princess? Why or why not?
Book Talk Teasers:
O’Brien, Robert C. Mrs. Frisby and the rats of NIMH. When a little field mouse falls ill, his mother, Mrs. Frisby, seeks help from the other animals and discovers a secret laboratory. (NoveList)
Stilton, Geronimo. The curse of the cheese pyramid. Geronimo Stilton–editor of “The Rodent’s Gazette”– travels from his home in New Mouse City to interview a famous Egyptian archaeologist and learns about pyramids, mummies, and hieroglyphs on a visit to the cheese pyramid. (NoveList)
DiCamillo, Kate. The tale of Despereaux. The adventures of Despereaux Tilling, a small mouse of unusual talents, the princess that he loves, the servant girl who longs to be a princess, and a devious rat determined to bring them all to ruin. (NoveList)
Epstein, Adam. The familiars: secrets of the crown. When human magic is destroyed, familiars Aldwyn the cat, Skylar the blue jay, and Gilbert the tree frog set out without their wizards to seek the Crown of the Snow Leopard, the only object that can save the kingdom of Vastia from the evil hare Paksahara. (NoveList)
Jonell, Lynne. Emma and the incredible shrinking rat. When Emmy discovers that she and her formerly loving parents are being drugged by their evil nanny with rodent potions that can change people in frightening ways, she and some new friends must try everything possible to return things to normal. (NoveList)
Peck, Richard. Secrets at sea. In 1887, the social-climbing Cranston’s voyage from New York to London, where they hope to find a husband for their awkward older daughter, secretly accompanied by Helena and her mouse siblings, for whom the journey is both terrifying and wondrous as they meet an array of titled humans despite their best efforts at remaining hidden. (NoveList)
Peck, Richard. The mouse with the question mark tail. A very small mouse of unknown origins runs away from school in the Royal Mews of Buckingham Palace shortly before the celebration of Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee, celebrating her sixty years on the British throne. (NoveList)
Tashjian, Janet. Einstein the class hamster saves the library. When Principal Decker closes Boerring Elementary School’s library due to severe budget cuts, Einstein and his friends in Ms. Moreno’s class try to reopen it by planning fundraisers, including shooting a video that stars Einstein and Marlon the turtle. (NoveList)
Colfer, Chris. The wishing spell. “Through the mysterious powers of a cherished book of stories, twins Alex and Conner leave their world behind and find themselves in a foreign land full of wonder and magic where they come face-to-face with the fairy tale characters they grew up reading about. (NoveList)
French, Vivian. The flight of dragons: the fourth tales from the Five Kingdoms. On Gracie Gillypot’s birthday, greedy, chocolate-hungry twins awaken the banished Old Malignant One, and unless Gracie can find a powerful, long-forgotten dragon’s egg, the Five Kingdoms may succumb to evil magic and Total Oblivion. (NoveList)
Gidwitz, Adam. In a glass grimmly. Frog joins cousins Jack and Jill in leaving their own stories to seek a magic mirror, encountering such creatures as giants, mermaids, and goblins along the way. Based in part on fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen. (NoveList)
Healy, Christopher. The hero’s guide to saving your kingdom. The four princes erroneously dubbed Prince Charming and rudely marginalized in their respective fairy tales form an unlikely team when a witch threatens the whole kingdom. (NoveList)
McMullen, Kate. Sir Lancelot, where are you? After the witch, Morgana le Fay, puts a curse on Sir Lancelot, three knights-in-training from the Dragon Slayers’ Academy set out to save him. (NoveList)
Mlynowski, Sarah. Whatever after: fairest of all. After moving to a new house, ten-year-old Abby and her younger brother Jonah discover an antique mirror that transports them into the Snow White fairy tale. (NoveList)
Ferris, Jean. Once upon a marigold. A young man with a mysterious past and a penchant for inventing things leaves the troll who raised him, meets an unhappy princess he has loved from afar, and discovers a plot against her and her father. (NoveList)
Funke, Cornelia. Igraine the brave. The daughter of two magicians, twelve-year-old Igraine wants nothing more than to be a knight, and when their castle is attacked by a treacherous neighbor bent on stealing their singing magic books, Igraine has an opportunity to demonstrate her bravery. (NoveList)
Shurtliff, Liesel. Rump: the true story of Rumpelstiltskin. Relates the tale of Rumpelstiltskin’s childhood and youth, explaining why his name is so important, how he is able to spin straw into gold, and why a first-born child is his reward for helping the miller’s daughter-turned-queen. (NoveList)
Books by Ursula Vernon:
Vernon, Ursula. Dragonbreath. Danny Dragonbreath and his friend Wendell get an up-close underwater tour of the Sargasso Sea from Danny’s sea-serpent cousin, encountering giant squid and mako sharks–and learn about standing up to bullies in the process. (NoveList)
Vernon, Ursula. Nurk: the strange surprising adventures of a (somewhat) brave shrew. Nurk, a sort-of brave shrew, packs up a few pairs of clean socks and sails off on an accidental adventure, guided by wisdom found in the journal of his famously brave and fierce grandmother, Lady Surka the warrior shrew. (NoveList)
Vernon, Ursula. Castle hangnail. When little, twelve-year-old Molly arrives at Castle Hangnail to fill the vacancy for a wicked witch, the minions who dwell there have no choice but to give her the job and at first it seems she will be able to keep the castle open, but Molly has quite a few secrets that could cause trouble. (NoveList)
★Hamster Princess: Harriet the Invincible.
By Ursula Vernon. Illus. by Ursula Vernon
2015. 208p. Dial, $12.99 (9780803739833). Gr. 3–6.
First published July, 2015 (Booklist).
Princesses don’t cliff-dive. They don’t joust, they don’t slay monsters, and they don’t rescue anyone. But Princess Harriet Hamsterbone (yes, she’s a hamster) is a princess, and, “If I do it,” she says, “it’s got to be something princesses do! Who makes these rules?!” Not content to wait around to prick herself on a hamster wheel on her twelfth birthday—she was cursed at birth, Sleeping Beauty style—Harriet makes the curse work for her. Curses, she reasons, are specific, and this one will keep her alive until she’s 12, making her all but invincible for the time being. And so off she goes, riding her faithful quail and ignoring her parents’ dry commentary, saving princesses from dragons (and dragons from princesses), and maybe finding the skills to save herself in the process. And, oh yeah, she’ll do anything to avoid having to kiss some stuck-up prince. The spunky, slightly bonkers Harriet is a delightful heroine who turns this fairy tale on its head, and the book is peppered with clever two-color cartoon illustrations that will attract even the more reluctant readers. It’s a joy to read, and we can only hope that Harriet—long may she reign—will return in later installments. —Maggie Reagan
School Library Journal:
Hamster Princess: Harriet the Invincible
★Gr 3–5—From the creator of the “Dragonbreath” series (Dial) comes a new fairy tale heroine in the form of a hamster. Princess Harriet Hamsterbone is not like ordinary princesses who are known for trailing around the palace looking ethereal and sighing a lot. She is, however, brave and intelligent and excels in other hamster princess skills, like checkers and fractions. Harriet is also invincible, due in part to a curse put upon her at birth by the evil wicked fairy god mouse, Ratshade. The curse dooms Princess Harriet to fall into a Sleeping Beauty-like slumber at the age of 12 but leaves her unable to die until then. Rather than worry about the inevitable, Princess Harriet lives life without fear—cliff-diving and Ogre-cat fighting, all with her trusty quail friend Mumfrey at her side. When the curse backfires, leaving all in the Kingdom in a deep slumber except Harriet and Mumfrey, it is up to the fierce little hamster to find a willing prince able to help her break the curse and save the kingdom. The artwork is large and in graphic novel-style, with sparse colors, similar to the “Dragonbreath” illustrations. Move over, Babymouse, there’s a new rodent in town! VERDICT Vernon has created a spunky heroine readers will cheer for and who will leave them eagerly searching for the happily ever after in the next installment.—Michele Shaw, Quail Run Elementary School, San Ramon, CA
The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books:
Vernon, Ursula. Hamster Princess: Harriet the Invincible. Dial / Penguin, 2015. hb 9780803739833, ebook 9780698403970
In this humorous twist on “Sleeping Beauty,” a sword-slinging, monster-fighting, fraction-calculating hamster princess, Harriet Hamsterbone, manages to outmaneuver the evil fairy Ratshade, tossing her into the splintery hamster wheel intended for Harriet and turning the sleeping curse back on the fairy; unfortunately, the curse still befalls everyone else in Harriet’s family’s castle. Harriet and her faithful quail-steed, Mumfrey, manage to escape unharmed but are then saddled with the task of finding a prince to kiss everyone to break the curse. Middle-graders with [End Page 171] a taste for absurdity and snark will find plenty of both here, and sassy Harriet is an entertaining heroine. The snappy, funny writing coupled with the plethora of comics-style illustrations and quick pace make this an easy sell to the reluctant reader crowd (who will find themselves happily devouring the occasional higher-level vocabulary word). The frequent art in tones of blue and gray often furthers the narrative via word-bubble interchanges of dialogue, and the carefully cocked angle of an ear or an eye renders the white hamster figures surprisingly expressive. Fans of Holm’s Babymouse (Babymouse: Queen of the World, BCCB 12/05) series or Vernon’s Dragonbreath (BCCB 9/09) series will definitely want to tag along on Harriet’s future adventures. Review Code: R — Recommended. Grades 43-5. Jeannette Hulick (The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, November 2015 (Vol. 69, No. 3))