Night of the Living Gerbil

Night of the Living Gerbil

by Elizabeth Levy, Bill Basso

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Robert is worried. His pet gerbil, Exterminator, is lying on the bottom of his cage, not moving. A trip to the veterinarian's office doesn't help, and soon, Extermie is gone. Robert is so crushed that he can't even talk about it. It doesn't help that his bossy cousin Mabel keeps telling him how he should feel. Or that his older brother, Sam, can't seem to stop


Robert is worried. His pet gerbil, Exterminator, is lying on the bottom of his cage, not moving. A trip to the veterinarian's office doesn't help, and soon, Extermie is gone. Robert is so crushed that he can't even talk about it. It doesn't help that his bossy cousin Mabel keeps telling him how he should feel. Or that his older brother, Sam, can't seem to stop telling bad dead gerbil jokes.Things get even worse when Sam comes up with a plan to cheer Robert up — a plan that involves a creepy store called Weird Science and its even weirder owner. And one dark stormy night, Sam and Robert find themselves right in the middle of ...the night of the living gerbil!

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
In typical big brother fashion, Sam does not seem to be sympathetic about Robert's grief when Exterminator, his pet gerbil, dies. Sam finally realizes that his jokes and cruel remarks are truly hurting Robert, so he decides to immortalize Exterminator by having him preserved by a taxidermist. Unfortunately, the taxidermist takes the gerbil's name seriously and stuffs him in a ferocious pose, which frightens the boys. They decide both the gerbil and the taxidermist are zombies, based on their limited knowledge of the movie, Night of the Living Dead, as described to them by their teenage baby-sitter. Basso's somewhat distorted black-and-white illustrations add to the humor of this amusing beginning mystery. 2001, HarperCollins, $14.95 and $14.89. Ages 7 to 10. Reviewer: Phyllis Kennemer
School Library Journal
Gr 3-5-This is the third story about the Bamford brothers. Robert has two gerbils-Terminator and Exterminator. One day Extermie looks rather listless and the vet doesn't hold out much hope for him. On the way home from the animal clinic, the boys and their mother stop at "Weird Science," a new store that has stuffed animals, fossils, and bones, and is owned by a taxidermist. After Extermie dies, Sam decides that they should have him preserved. Busy with museum preservations, Mr. Winston sends the body to his brother, who poses it in a fierce exterminator posture, which is nothing like the animal's true nature. Sam's dry sense of humor and bad puns lighten the story, but also get him into a lot of trouble. The boys' annoying seven-year-old cousin with her highly developed sense of right and wrong tries to walk Robert through the stages of grief. Their friend and baby-sitter likes to draw parallels between Mr. Winston and the zombie from the movie Night of the Living Dead. Children who liked the previous books are the most likely audience for this one.-Debbie Feulner, Northwest Middle School, Greensboro, NC Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
After an overlong absence, the all-too-suggestible Bamford brothers (Frankenstein Moved in on the Fourth Floor, 1979; Dracula Is a Pain in the Neck, 1983) again let their imaginations get the better of them. In an effort to console his little brother Robert, grief-stricken after the death of his gerbil Exterminator, Sam secretly takes the corpse to Ben Winston, owner of a new bone and taxidermy shop, to be stuffed. What comes back is a little monster, rearing up on hind legs and baring shark-like teeth-and Winston's odd, too, with dark circles under his eyes and a faint chemical odor. Could he be . . . a zombie? Sam and Robert are ready to believe. An elaborate memorial service for Extermie dissolves into pandemonium when the guest of honor is unveiled and Winston himself shows up-as the Bamford brothers' divorced mother's date! The deceased, with its extended front paws and evil glare, steals the show in the sketchy, comical scenes, but it all turns out to be a misunderstanding, resolved with a round of apologies and explanations. Young chapter-book readers may stay up late to finish this, but it won't give them sleepless nights. (Fiction. 8-10)

Product Details

Perfection Learning Corporation
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.60(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range:
7 - 10 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Ready for the Real Exterminator

"Look at Extermie," shouted Robert to his brother, Sam, one Saturday morning. "I think there's something wrong with him."

Robert had two gerbils, Terminator and Exterminator — called Termie and Extermie for short. Termie was playing on the wheel in their cage, making it go around and around. But Extermie was lying on the bottom of the cage, his little back legs splayed out behind him.

Robert picked up the cage and carried it to Sam's room to show him. Sam was busy on the computer. He barely looked up. "Maybe he's ready for the real exterminator," he joked. "You know — the one who comes to the apartment and sprays for cockroaches. Maybe you tempted fate giving him that name."

"That's not funny," said Robert. He took Extermie out of the cage and stroked his head gently. Extermie just lay there. His little chest went up and down with each breath, but he didn't tickle Robert's palm with his claws like he usually did.

Robert carried Extermie over to Sam. "Do you really think it was a mistake to name him Exterminator?" he asked.

Sam finally looked up from the computer and stared at the gerbil cradled in his brother's hands. Extermie's eyes did look a little glassy. "Maybe we should show him to Mom,"

Sam suggested. He was starting to feel a little guilty about his joke.

Mrs. Bamford was sitting at the kitchen counter, surrounded by pieces of paper. "I need a science program!" she muttered without looking up. "It's got to be perfect."

Sam and Robert glanced at each other. Mrs. Bamford was in charge of cultural programs for Sam and Robert'sschool this year, and she was determined to do the best job ever. But her first two assemblies had not been great successes.

First, she had booked "To Be or Not to Be Shakespeare," an acting troupe that promised to perform one scene from each of Shakespeare's plays in a hilarious, fun-filled forty-five-minute assembly. Unfortunately, two hours after they started, the troupe hadn't even gotten to act one of Hamlet. Most of the kids were asleep. The ones who weren't were throwing spitballs at each other.

Then Mrs. Bamford had set up an author appearance. But the visiting author had just broken his leg, and he spent the entire assembly having kids write jokes on his cast. He also told a lot of jokes. At least some of them were about writing —

"How do you begin a book about ducks?"

"With an intro-duck-tion."

"How does a book about zombies begin?"

"With a �dead-ication.'"

The kids had fun, but the teachers told Mrs. Bamford that they weren't sure it had been a true learning experience.

Now Mrs. Bamford had just enough money left from the Parent Teacher Organization to do one last program. She wanted it to be a good one and had decided that a science program was the way to go.

"Mom, Exterminator isn't feeling well," said Robert.

Mrs. Bamford peered at Robert's gerbil. "He does look a little peaked."

"He's sleeping a lot more than Termie, and I think he's losing weight," said Robert.

"Yup," said Sam. "Looks like he's ready for that last ride in the compactor chute to the sky."

"Shut up," said Robert, covering Extermie's ears. "You're upsetting him."

"He doesn't want to know what happens to New York City pets when they go belly up," teased Sam. "Remember what happened to Goldie?"

"I don't want to talk about Goldie," said Robert.

Goldie, Robert's first pet, had been a goldfish. He had ended up being flushed down the toilet. Sam was the one who had done the flushing.

"How about cute little Gravy Crockett?" asked Sam.

Gravy Crockett, Robert's second pet, had been a turtle. He had only lasted a few weeks.

And then he had died. Mrs. Bamford had wrapped him up and put him down the apartment's garbage chute to the basement compactor. It was a good thing it happened on a day that the garbage was picked up, as Mrs. Bamford pointed out.

Then Robert had gotten Terminator and Exterminator. He had had them for a whole six months so far, and they were his favorite pets of all. They were furry, sweet, and, despite their names, they never destroyed anything except a little bit of newspaper.

"Mom, I think we should take Extermie to the vet," said Robert.

Mrs. Bamford nodded. "We'll take a taxi. It'll be quicker."

Robert wrapped Extermie up in a clean towel and put him in his carrying case. Sam helped. He was feeling a little bad about the jokes he had made. Sometimes he just couldn't help himself. But he didn't want Extermie to die.

Meet the Author

Elizabeth Levy loves to tell stories that combine serious issues with humor. She has proven it with her award-winning books for young readers, including My Life As A Fifth-Grade Comedian, Keep Ms. Sugarman In The Fourth Grade, and other best-selling books in the Sam and Robert series, including Frankenstein Moved In On The Fourth Floor and Dracula Is A Pain In The Neck. She lives in New York City.

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