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Talk About: Friendship According to Humphrey

Core, Reading, Talk About

Published on: September 18, 2023

Written by: Gina Hagler

Friendship Feature

Talk About posts give you the key events and essential information you need to discuss a Core Book with the children in your life.

Cover of Friendship According to Humphrey

Friendship According to Humphrey | Book 2
by Betty G. Birney

Humphrey stories are told from the point of view of a classroom hamster named Humphrey. He is no ordinary classroom hamster. He is a little guy with a big heart and enough empathy to power the world. He also has totally amazing problem-solving skills!

Lexile: 640L | Reading Level: Grades 3-7

Story World

On their way to school after winter break, Mrs. Brisbane warns Humphrey that there are suprising changes in store for him in Room 26. He can’t imagine what she means. Then, he sees that the desks are clumped together and facing the wrong way. They’d always been neat rows before, but it’s not all bad; now he has a close up view of different kids. Then, Humphrey notices a new kid. Her name is Tabitha Clark and she looks SCARED-SCARED-SCARED. But that’s not all. There is also a new classroom pet. It’s a frog named Og. Humphrey calms down once he realizes that Og is an addition to the classroom, which means Humphrey is not being replaced. Still, he’s not sure how he feels about being friends with a frog – or even how to start being one. Humphrey is not the only one with friendship troubles. He’s surprised to see that kids have things to work out, too. And, once again, Humphrey decides to use the lock-that-doesn’t-lock on his cage to let himself out to help the humans in his life.

Key Characters

Their interactions with Humphrey tell the story:

core books,themes,Main idea

Og the Frog

Og arrives in Room 26 after winter break. Humphrey isn’t sure how to make friends with him. Plus, Humphrey is a bit envious of the attention Og gets. Because the two don’t understand each other, they have several missed opportunities to get to know one another. When it’s time to work together for a friend – as is the case with Aldo’s application form – Og shows himself to be a partner. When Humphrey finds himself stuck and unable to move, Og comes to his rescue. They still may not communicate directly, but they are definitely friends.

core books,themes,Main idea


Tabitha Clark is the new kid. As a foster kid, she’s moved among many families. She’s a nice girl who doesn’t talk very much and carries a small bear with her as a security object. The problem is, the other kids think that’s kind of weird. When the class plays a game, and Tabitha knows most of the sports answers, the kids are interested in getting to know her better. Sit-Still-Seth is especially interested because he also loves sports. With a bit of help from Humphrey, Seth and Tabitha become friends. He also convinces her to keep her bear at home. It all works to make Tabitha a comfortable member of Room 26. Sit-Still-Seth Stevenson is a kind kid who works to become Tabitha’s friend. He advises her about leaving her bear at home, talks to her about sports, and – with Humphrey’s help – gets to know her better because of a study packet.

core books,themes,Main idea

Aldo Amato

Now that Aldo is married and thinking of starting a family, he tells Humphrey that he needs a job with more pay and better hours. The thing is, he likes the job he has. He’s happy that while he goes to school, working at night is perfect, and he won’t have to leave right away. But he’s nervous about applying to school and not sure what to study. Humphrey, with Og’s help, puts Aldo’s application where Mrs. Brisbane can see it. She asks Aldo to come in early and she and Principal Morales talk to him about being a teacher. To see if he’d like it, she invites Aldo so teach a leasson. He teaches a science lesson that goes so well that Aldo feels sure he wants to teach, and Principal Morales tells him to let him know when he’s ready to teach at Longfellow School.

core books,themes,Main idea

Marty Bean

Marty Bean is a mean Bully. He trips little kids on the bus, makes fun of everyone, and somehow manages not to get caught. When Humphrey rides home on the bus with Wait-For-The-Bell-Garth, he is angry that Bean is making so much trouble for little kids and his friends. Humphrey decides to run up and down Bean’s leg, which makes Bean yell and jump around. The bus driver tells him to sit behind her. At the end of the ride, she says that the bus has never been that quiet, and Bean will sit there all the time. That’s not the end of it, though, because he is invited to Repeat-That-Please-Richie’s birthday party and is mean to people again. When he is mean to Raise-Your-Hand-Heidi, Stop-Giggling-Gail yells at him to stop. After that, Aldo steps in and tells Bean that he needs to be nicer if he expects to have any friends.

core books,themes,Main idea


The first time Humphrey went home with Golden-Miranda, it was to her mom’s house. This time, it is to her dad’s house. Humphrey is happy to be in a place without Clem – at least he is until he meets Miranda’s stepsister. Abby is not happy to have a new sister, a new baby brother, and a bedroom she has to share. She tells Miranda not to cross an imaginary line down the center of the room. Humphrey knows Miranda is nice, and he’s sure Abby and Miranda would be friends if they could find a way to get along. He decides to help by switching some of their stuff from one side of the room to the other. Once the girls find out that no one switched their things, the only possiblity is that Humphrey did it. That’s impossible; it must have been a ghost. The girls scare each other so badly that they look to each other for help and start to talk.

core books,themes,Main idea

Kirk Chen

I-Heard-That-Kirk tries to be funny at all the wrong times. The thing is, as Mrs. Brisbane tells him, he is funny. He needs to learn when to be funny and when it’s inappropriate. After Mrs. Brisbane talks to Kirk, he works hard to not be the class clown. Mrs. Brisbane notices and asks him to be the announcer at the Poetry Reading on Valentine’s Day.

core books,themes,Main idea


Stop-Giggling-Gail and Raise-Your-Hand-Heidi are the best of friends until one day, they fight over a game of checkers. Things get so bad that they stop talking to each other. Humphrey is horrified because he thought best friends were best friends all the time. When they start talking again, he is delighted.

What Does Humphrey Learn?

The messages/themes in this book are kid-friendly:

  • Ms. Mac still considers him a special friend.
  • Even the best of friends don’t get along all the time.
  • You can make new friends and keep your old ones, too.
  • It helps to imagine yourself in the other person’s position while trying to understand them.

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