Lynne Jonell’s Hamster Magic

A local student feels a bit star-struck about her role in an award-nominee, Hamster Magic.

Celia Willow wants to run!  And chew wood!  And turn back to her human, little girl self! But not until her siblings help reverse the effects of Hamster Magic, the latest book by local author Lynne Jonell.

The book for children ages 6-9 starts with a search for the family hamster, Hammy, which parallels Jonell’s own search for a live hamster to observe as she wrote the book.

Julia Hoffner, a student at Greenwood Elementary at the time when Jonell reached out to the school’s media specialist, Sharon Quern, answered Jonell’s call for help.

“When Lynne asked for me to lend my hamster to her, I was honored,” she says. Her pet was named Hammy Nibble Hoffner, and Jonell’s hamster character was named Hammy as well. Hoffner then knew, “It was meant to be!”

One long weekend of research later, and Jonell had more than enough material. Some highlights:  No. 1. Hammy is very cute. “When I got the hamster, I wrote down how it sounded and the things it did,” Jonell says. “I didn’t know that hamsters like to rub their paws against their cheeks.” No. 2. “They’re really fast! You wouldn’t think of them as runners, but they are like a dust mop gone mad.”

While it was fun for Jonell to get hands-on experience with the furry creature, Hoffner says she missed her pet a lot: “It was the first time Hammy had ever left the house. I felt as if a piece of my heart was gone. Although, I did know that he would be in good hands.” Looking back, she’s glad that Hammy was a part of the book that made the Minnesota Book Award list of nominees in 2011. “It was one of my life long goals to be a part of a REAL author's book.”