soup of the day: hot rod hamster by cynthia lord and derek andersen!


Ladies and Gentlemen, start your engines!


Do you have a need for speed? Come on, let’s burn a little rubber, ’cause today, Hot Rod Hamster, the first picture book by multiple award-winning author, Cynthia Lord, officially hits the shelves! *the crowd roars*


Will you just look at that hamster? He oozes personality and kid appeal from every pore, and only wants one thing: to build a sizzling hot rod so he can enter the race at the 4 Paws Speedway.

He goes to the bulldog’s junkyard, finds a car, and with the help of a few mechanically inclined rodents, SOUPS IT UP! ☺

Young readers will bond with the hamster instantly; no one can resist his charm and full-out enthusiasm, or the jaunty, rhyming text:

Old car, new car, shiny painted blue car,
Rust car, clean car, itty-bitty green car.

Which would *you* choose?


A stroke of genius, inviting us to participate in all the fun — helping to select a car, then picking wheels, engine parts, and blazing-hot flames! Then it’s time for the big race, and the hamster’s irrepressible spirit endears him to us even more, as he takes his place at the starting line alongside a group of large, brusque canine competitors who enjoy taunting him: “Is your car a toy?” “You’re awfully small.” “You’ll get lost in our dust.”


Ha! The hamster grits his teeth and leaves them in his dust.

What a great story idea, so beautifully executed! The characters talk in speech balloons, which keep the narrative humming along like a finely tuned, well-oiled machine. Derek Anderson’s acrylic cartoony illos, rendered in bold, juicy colors, are chock full of delicious detail and comical touches. What a brilliant job he did, creating what I consider to be the most endearing hamster in the history of the world — adorable, fluffy, cuddly and spunky — positive energy personified. He goes straight to the heart; each page turn brings more delight, more excitement, more fun. I especially love the spreads which portray the action at the hamster’s eye level. We’re hooked from the start and can’t help but cheer on the little guy right through to the finish line!

Collette crushing on the hamster.

Cornelius builds his own hot rod in the alphabet soup kitchen.

I know, like me, you’re probably a big fan of Cindy’s middle grade novel, Rules (Scholastic, 2006), which earned a boatload of accolades, including a Newbery Honor Medal and the Schneider Family Book Award. With Hot Rod Hamster, she’s proven herself to be one of those enviable authors who can write brilliantly across genres. She’s admitted to having a “need for speed” herself, as well as a pet hamster named, “Rocky,” who served as inspiration for the story. Let’s congratulate her now with a tasty bowl of motor oil celebratory soup. Ready? Get set, GO!

Today’s Special: Speedway Soup (a premium high octane blend best eaten sizzling hot)! Nota bene: goldfish crackers are Cindy’s favorite writing snack.

Racing cars requires lots of energy, so we’re serving up some sweet extras for your spare tank — hot rod cupcakes,

trophy cookies,

 photo by Sweet Creations.

and, just in case you’re building your own hot rod, some dark chocolate tools:

 photo by Kizuna Clang.

Now that you’ve sped around this post a few times, grab your steering wheel with both hands, put your pedal to the metal, and zoom over to your nearest indie or fave online bookseller. If you’re going to a brick and mortar store, wear your oven mitts and running shoes to better chase down your copy of Hot Rod Hamster as it whizzes by. Beep beep!



♥ Visit Cynthia Lord’s official website, where you’ll find a cool Teachers’ Guide that includes enrichment activities, notes and sketches from the illustrator, and more. For regular updates, check out Cindy’s Live Journal blog.

♥ Recent interviews with Cindy at Kirby’s Lane and Something to Write About.

♥ Check out Derek Anderson’s official website! Special thanks to him for providing the spreads in this post.

♥ You can find the Hot Rod Hamster book trailer here.


HOT ROD HAMSTER by Cynthia Lord
illustrated by Derek Anderson
published by Scholastic, February 2010
Picture book for ages 3-6, 40 pp.
Source of book: review copy provided by publisher.

*Race car cupcakes by Say it with Cake.

**Spreads posted with permission, text copyright © 2010 Cynthia Lord, illustrations © 2010 Derek Anderson, published by Scholastic,Inc. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2010 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan’s alphabet soup. All rights reserved.

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