Archive for the ‘Book News’ Category


January 1st, 2018




Time to celebrate the new year – and the whoopee cushion Santa brought me! And what better occasion to celebrate than a brand-new book. Yep, January 2 is a book birthday for my new Tiny Tales book, HUMPHREY’S PET SHOW PANIC. Ta-da!




I love how illustrator Priscilla Burris can get so much feeling into her drawings using very few lines! She has a very talented paw! You can see how she draw me here.

And guess whose head I’m sitting on? Yep, it’s the return of Clem, Miranda’s dog from THE WORLD ACCORDING TO HUMPHREY! And there are so many other animals at the pet show, from dogs, cats and rabbits, to a frog named Og – oh, you know him! I even get to see my old pal, Winky. With so much competition, I’m not sure I can possibly win. But my classmates are counting on me to bring home a prize. And I have bigger things to worry about, like Clem. No wonder I’m in a panic!


Spelling Matters – A Lot

October 31st, 2017

You never know what you’ll find in your inbox. On Friday, I had an email with news that made me surprised and  HAPPY-HAPPY-HAPPY.

Humphrey’s Mixed-Up Magic Trick, one of the Tiny Tales, was named a 2018 GREAT WORDS, GREAT WORKS title by the Scripps National Spelling Bee. That’s the big one!

I did not know about this list, but here’s how they explained it:

“The purpose of this list is to highlight books that introduce students to rich and varied spelling and vocabulary words in context. The Bee curates the Great Words, Great Works list annually to provide teachers with grade-level appropriate reading recommendations that cover a variety of genres and topics, from classic to contemporary, fiction to nonfiction. Every word on the 2018 School Spelling Bee Study List can be found in one of the books from the corresponding grade level. Nearly 11 million students across the country in the 1st through 8th grades use this list to prepare for their classroom and school spelling bees.”

Humphrey’s Mixed-Up Magic Trick has been selected as one of five 2nd grade fiction books.

If you know Humphrey, you know that spelling is very important to him. He faithfully takes the spelling tests along with his fellow classmates in Room 26. Alas, he has not yet gotten 100%, like Sayeh, but one day maybe he will. NEVER-NEVER-NEVER give up!



I am an unsqueakably good speller …. for a hamster!





Spelling is important to me as well! I was always a naturally good speller as were my parents and sister. I often won or tied for the school spelling bee and my sister ended up on the local St. Louis televised spelling bee in the ’50s. Early TV, just kids on folding chairs and no real set. My sister didn’t like the limelight much. I was watching at my grandparents’ house, but when she finally missed on the word “phenomenal,” she looked greatly relieved! The funny thing is, I always get hung up on that word even today. I think it’s because “phenomenon” has the “o” but “phenomenal” has an “a.” Or did I get that mixed up too?   Big Sister Janet and me around the time of the spelling bee. Rock ‘n’ roll was the big new thing back then! Rock Around the Clock!

I like Humphrey to use interesting words and there is lots of wordplay in the books. (I often wonder how that works in translation.) Remember “Piewhacked” from Mysteries According to Humphrey?

So any honor that has to do with spelling, words and phenomenal vocabulary makes me unsqueakably glad.

Oh, and I really like that particular book. My son was heavily into magic tricks as he was growing up and we all had a lot of fun with it. You can even learn a phenomenal trick in the book!



I told you it would be a different kind of According to book! Humphrey and I agreed it was time to hear Og’s side of the story, but we had no idea what his past life was like. Mark your calendars for July 3, 2018 and get ready to visit the swamp! I’ll be talking more about Og and his past in a blog in the very near future, but for right now, I’ll let this cover sink in!


Yes, it’s been a REALLY-REALLY-REALLY long time since I blogged. A few years back, I had major neck surgery that took over a year to recover from. The absolute worst, most pain-inducing thing I could do would be to sit, especially at the computer. I kept the book-writing going, but I dropped the blog and other things, like school visits (local only) and travel alone, because I can’t carry much of anything and was told never to lift a bag into the overhead compartment again – yikes!

Please don’t get the wrong idea. I’m active and healthy – I just have some skeletal issues. Except for the eight months of waiting for the bones to fuse, I’ve been doing Pilates twice a week and a deep tissue massage once a week at a local Wellness Center for several years, so I’m in better shape now than before this all began!

But sitting – not so great.

The writing continued but I stuck to writing about Humphrey and couldn’t accomplish much more than that. Though we did manage to have a great time at our son’s wedding 2016 with the whole family.


Then on the fateful day of January 6, 2017, I completely wrecked my knee. I knew I was overdue for knee replacements, but one step onto the patio and boom- the knee was shot. However, I had personal and professional obligations to fulfill, so I had to wait until the end of May to get the replacement. At first I rolled around the house in a desk chair. Then I graduated to crutches, a cane and finally hobbling for a few months. I hardly ever even made it out to my dear writing house in the backyard.

I got a laptop (bad for the neck, good for the knee) and worked in the kitchen. Here is the GOOD NEWS: I had a total knee replacement and it went very well. I was always ahead of the physical therapy milestones and my surgeon called my range of motion “phenomenal.” But since they completely realigned my knee, it caused subsequent hip/low back issues which “laid me low”.

I guess my mind was still working, because back when I was working in the kitchen, I had a sudden inspiration for a new kind of Humphrey book. It was a very challenging idea … but I quickly wrote some chapters and an outline, sent it to my agent and editor and got a two book deal. One of the reasons I had to wait until the end of May was to finish the book so Humphrey’s fans could get it in 2018. (There were other reasons as well.) Even though I was in the kitchen, where there’s more hubbub (phone, husband, repair people, etc.), I got it finished.

During my recovery, I was able to work with my editor on the copy-editing of this book and several new upcoming Humphrey’s Tiny Tales and eventually I went back to my office and to my sessions at the Wellness Center.

Now that I’m well on my way to recovery, I have discovered a renewed interest in doing lots of things I was struggling with before: writing more, reading more books, learning new things, connecting with people. Things I couldn’t do for a long time. I will never carry a suitcase or anything heavy again and I’ll never run a race, but I feel like my old self again.

Now I head out to my writing house at 5 am (or earlier) with lots of energy, looking forward to life.


As we approach the “cover reveal” of the new book, due out in July, 2018,  and its subject matter (this is not exactly an According to Humphrey book,) I remembered this long silent blog and decided to start communicating with fans again.


Hi, Humphrey here! Just to say that I read this blog post and it does seem as if Betty G. Birney BELIEVES that she writes these books all by herself. Which is kind of cheeky, given that she doesn’t actually have to experience all of my sometimes scary but always hamster-iffic adventures! Just saying …. you’d better take all of this with a grain of salt, as they say. And some lovely crunchy celery would taste very nice with that salt. THANKS-THANKS-THANKS for listening!




There are several ways to communicate with me. Writing a letter is not the best way – you will wait a long time for an answer. But I answer emails fairly quickly. If you want to scan a letter and attach it, you can do that on the Contact  form. If you have trouble with that, let me know and I’ll tell you another way to do it.

To email me through this website – look for Contact link at the bottom of the Home Page or use this:

You can follow Humphrey on Facebook.

You can follow me on Facebook using my name. You can follow me on Twitter @bettygbirney

(I’m just getting started on Instagram.)

You can sign up to a list of fans called Humphrey’s Handlers.

And you can come back here very soon as I get ready for the BIG reveal of the next book! Right, Humphrey?





Humphrey Show and Tell

January 24th, 2015

This week was so exciting, Humphrey’s whiskers were wiggling and his tail was twitching. I was pretty excited as well because of four BIG-BIG-BIG releases.

On Thursday January 22:


BOOK 11, Imagination According to Humphrey, was released in hardcover in the U.S. (It comes out in the UK on 5 February.) I love the cover and I’m especially excited because the book has a lot to do with using your imagination and writing. I’ve learned from many students I’ve talked to that writing can sometimes be more difficult than it sounds. In this story, Humphrey tries to write a story and is surprised that his imagination doesn’t seem to be working. (Sometimes mine is a little sluggish, too.) Here readers can get some tips about jump-starting story ideas … and also read about real and imaginary dragons, as well as ghosts, crying babies and so much more.

Here’s an excerpt from the Booklist review – I cut out some spoilers and I don’t know where the reviewer got the idea that Humphrey’s been around for 15 years, but other than that, I’m pleased. (It’s 11 years, by the way.)

“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 same day Imagination came out, BOOK 10, Secrets According to Humphrey, came out in paperback. I’m always happy when the paperback versions come out so more people can read about Humphrey’s adventures.


I’m thrilled that on Thursday, the Spanish translation of BOOK 1, The World According to Humphrey, was published in the US.  I’ve been hoping for this for a long time and here it is!


There’s been quite a gap in the audiobook releases but also on Thursday, this 4-book audio collection was released. It contains Mysteries According to Humphrey, Winter According to Humphrey, Secrets According to Humphrey and Imagination According to Humphrey. I hear from lots of families who listen to Humphrey books in the car.

Now Humphrey will have to spin his wheel until May, when the third Tiny Tales book is published: Humphrey’s Creepy-Crawly–Camping Adventure!

As for me, Book 12 is just about to go into editing as well as the fourth Tiny Tales book. Next week, I’m doing a Skype tour for Penguin Kids, visiting 16 classrooms from my desk. If you wish you had known about this opportunity and want to keep up with events like these, please follow Humphrey on his Facebook page.  You can follow me as well. Also follow Penguin Kids – they always have great ideas for teachers and librarians.