Cover image for Imagination according to Humphrey
Imagination according to Humphrey
Birney, Betty G., author.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York, NY : G. P. Putnam's Sons, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA), [2015]
Physical Description:
120 pages ; 22 cm.
"During a creative writing unit at Longfellow School, the students in Mrs. Brisbane's class practice using their imagination with their very own writing journals--and Humphrey finds out that writing from his imagination is harder than it looks"--
Reading Level:
580 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 3.9 3.0 171702.
Format :


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Humphrey's eleventh adventure celebrates stories, writing, and the power of the imagination!

Imaginations are running wild in Mrs. Brisbane's class, but Humphrey is stumped. His friends are writing about where they would go if they could fly, but Humphrey is HAPPY-HAPPY-HAPPY right where he is in Room 26.

It's pawsitively easy for Humphrey to picture exciting adventures with dragons and knights in the story Mrs. Brisbane is reading aloud. He has no trouble coming up with Plans to help his friends and tricks to entertain them. His imagination even goes a little too far when he wonders if Carlos's imaginary friend might be a ghost.

If only his imagination wouldn't disappear when he tries to write. Luckily, Humphrey likes a challenge, and Mrs. Brisbane has lots of writing tips that do the trick.

Author Notes

Betty G. Birney has written episodes for numerous children's television shows, including The New Adventures of Madeleine, Doug, and Bobby's World , as well as after-school specials and a television movie, Mary Christmas. She has won many awards for her television work, including an Emmy, three Humanitas Prizes, and a Writers Guild of America award, and won a Christopher Award for Friendship According to Humphrey.

In addition to the Humphrey books, she is the author of The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs and The Princess and the Peabodys.

A native of St. Louis, Missouri, Betty lives in Los Angeles with her husband, an actor.

Find fun Humphrey activities and teacher's guides at

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Humphrey celebrates 15 years in this eleventh outing of the forever popular classroom pet series. In characteristic hamster style, Humphrey solves a new sibling problem for a student, helps a lonely classroom pet in another classroom, and learns about creative writing. Working along with the students, Humphrey experiences difficulty with the process. Birney cleverly intertwines various characters and subplots. For example, a hissing bearded dragon briefly disrupts Humphrey's concentration when Mrs. Brisbane is reading an absorbing book about dragons. The children are surprised by a visit from the author of this book. She, of course, speaks about imaginative writing and offers advice, which Humphrey uses to finish his creation. This installment in the series will be popular with early middle-grade readers, especially those who enjoy animal fiction.--Edmundson, Martha Copyright 2015 Booklist

School Library Journal Review

Gr 2-4-The students in Room 26 at Longfellow School are on their way to becoming writers. Mrs. Brisbane is encouraging them to use their imagination and fill in the blank to the sentence "If I could fly, I would _____." Humphrey, the class hamster, wants to try, too, but finds himself suffering from a case of writer's block. All around him, imaginations are soaring while his seems to have flown away. When not scribbling in his hamster-sized notebook, Humphrey sneaks out of his cage to visit another pet and spends the weekend at a classmate's home, where he tries to help with various problems. The theme of perseverance is prevalent throughout this pleasant early chapter book. It includes tips for budding writers and could spark a class discussion about inspiration. Purchase where "Humphrey" books are popular.-Beth Cuddy, Seward Elementary School, Auburn, NY (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



The golden dragon bent his head low and Gil Goodfriend crawled up his neck. When the dragon lifted his head, Gil was higher than Tower Peak, which was the tallest mountain in the kingdom. It was after lunch and our teacher, Mrs. Brisbane, was reading a book to everyone in Room 26 of Longfellow School, where I live. She continued: "Hold on," the dragon said. "We're going up." Suddenly, Gil and the dragon rose high above his village. Wind whipped through his hair. It was thrilling until the dragon suddenly veered to the right and swooped down low, grazing ten treetops with his majestic fire-tipped wings. One treetop caught on fire, but luckily, the wind blew the fire out. Someone in the back of the room gasped. Mrs. Brisbane kept on reading. "Are you all right?" the dragon called to Gil. Surprisingly, he was perfectly fine. He was perfectly fine? My whiskers wiggled at the thought of flying over fiery treetops. Gil peered down as they soared above his house. It looked no bigger than a toy. In seconds, the whole village of Bumpshire looked like tiny dots on a white background, even though it was July. You see, Gil's village had really terrible weather. It snowed in the summer and it flooded in the winter and they had BIG-BIG-BIG storms all the time. It was miserable, but no one knew how to make it better. "Only you can change the weather back to normal," the dragon said. "I'm just a boy," Gil said. "Why me?" "Yes, WHY-WHY-WHY?" I squeaked. The dragon didn't answer. After a few moments, Gil shouted, "Am I ever coming back?" The dragon's voice boomed, "That depends on you and you alone!" Mrs. Brisbane looked up at all of my classmates. My tail twitched as I imagined riding a dragon. The biggest animal I've been near is a dog. They are pretty scary and have bad breath, but at least they don't breathe fire! "Don't stop!" Slow-Down-Simon shouted. Mrs. Brisbane closed the book. "I'm sorry, but I have to keep you in suspense until tomorrow." Calm-Down-Cassie shivered. "The dragon seems nice, but I hope I never meet a real one!" "I agree!" I said. Of course, since I'm a small classroom hamster, all that my human friends heard was "Squeak." "BOING-BOING!" My neighbor Og jumped up and down in his tank. He's the classroom frog. Maybe he's afraid of dragons, too. "Dragons aren't real," Tell-the-Truth-Thomas said. "They're only in books. You shouldn't believe everything you read in a story." "There are real dragons," Not-Now-Nicole said. "Eeek!" I squeaked. Thomas laughed. "You have a good imagination!" "But there were dragons a long time ago," Cassie said. "Right, Mrs. Brisbane?" Mrs. Brisbane smiled. "Some stories are true. They're called nonfiction. But other stories come out of the imagination. Those books are called fiction, like this book." "There are dragons that aren't imaginary," Nicole said. "My brother has one." "Really?" Mrs. Brisbane asked. "Really!" Nicole said. Stop-Talking-Sophie raised her hand. "I don't see any dragons walking around today--but that doesn't mean they never did. Why did so many people write stories about them?" "That's a good question," Mrs. Brisbane said. "Any ideas on why people might have thought dragons lived nearby?" The room was quiet for a moment. I had no ideas at all. I would NEVER-NEVER-NEVER want to imagine there were real scary dragons! Just-Joey raised his hand. "Maybe people saw some big old bones--like dinosaur bones--and thought they were from something like a dragon. And maybe there was a forest fire and people thought the beast breathed flames that started the fire." "Yes!" Thomas said. "And then they started to imagine all kinds of things the dragon did." Mrs. Brisbane nodded. "I think it might have happened like that." I still wasn't sure. The room was quiet until Not-Now-Nicole giggled. "Maybe we should get a dragon for a classroom pet. One like my brother's." It had been hard enough to get used to a frog as the other pet in Room 26. Especially a frog like Og, who makes a weird sound and has some odd habits. But a fire-breathing dragon? "NO-NO-NO!" I squeaked. The students sitting close to our table heard me and laughed. "Don't worry, Humphrey," Thomas said. "We're not getting a dragon . . . because they're imaginary." By that time, I wasn't even interested in an imaginary dragon. "Tell us about this dragon your brother has, Nicole," Mrs. Brisbane said. "Her name is Pearl and she's really beautiful," Nicole said. My classmates burst out laughing. I didn't think what Nicole said was funny at all. She looked REALLY-REALLY-REALLY upset. "She is too real! I'll prove it to you," she said. "I'll call my mom right now. She'll tell you." "Not-Now-Nicole," Mrs. Brisbane said. "It's time for us to get out our math books. You can explain later." I usually try to learn along with my fellow classmates, even though I don't have a math book. But my eyelids got heavy and I slipped into my sleeping hut for a short nap. When I woke up, I crawled back out and glanced across the table by the window where my cage sits. Og was in his tank next to my cage. I think he was dozing, too, but it's hard to tell. Sometimes he closes his eyes but he's not even sleeping. (I told you, he's a little odd.) I glanced out of the other side of my cage and was unsqueakably happy to see that there was no pet dragon blowing hot smoke at me. Whew! Then I looked toward the front of the room. I don't know how long I'd slept, but instead of writing numbers on the board, Mrs. Brisbane was talking about writing. "This is my favorite time in the school year," she said. "Today, we start being writers. I know you all brought your writing notebooks today. Will you hold them up?" The students all held up notebooks, and each one was different. Helpful-Holly's had big yellow sunflowers on it. Tall-Paul's had a motorcycle on the cover, while Small-Paul's had a photo of the space shuttle. I climbed up to the tippy top of my cage so I could see better. I saw smiley faces, princesses, polka dots and stars. My friends in Room 26 have a lot of interests! "Once you start writing your ideas in your notebooks, you're on your way to being a writer," Mrs. Brisbane explained. "What if we don't have any ideas?" Hurry-Up-Harry asked. Some of my classmates giggled. "I mean, what if we don't have any ideas about what to write?" Harry said. "We all have ideas," Mrs. Brisbane said. "The notebook is a tool to help you." "Like a hammer?" Fix-It-Felipe asked. I know he likes hammers, because he can fix about anything. More of my friends giggled. Mrs. Brisbane laughed, too. "In a way, yes. It's a tool to help you learn how to find ideas and develop them." Helpful-Holly laughed. "I think Felipe would rather have a hammer." "All right, enough joking, class," our teacher said. "To get you started, I'm going to give you an assignment. Start by writing . . ." She paused to write on the board. If I could fly, I would fly like a "And then fill in the blank however you like," she explained. "You can start now, but the bell will ring soon, so bring in your completed work tomorrow." "Fly? Without a plane?" Cassie asked. "You get to decide if it's a plane or a bird or anything you can imagine," Mrs. Brisbane said. "Then I want you to write a sentence saying where you would go. This is the beginning of your assignment and eventually you will end up with a real story." She pointed to her head. "Use your imaginations. And spend some time thinking about your idea before you start writing." Excerpted from Imagination According to Humphrey by Betty G. Birney All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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