A really charming (to me, at least) children's book by Alan Baker. It chronicles the travails of Benjamin the hamster after he sullies the beautifully clean page of a book. Alas, it is out of print, even though it was only first published in 1982.

For some reason, I identify very well with Benjamin's predicament. Perhaps because I have played out variants on it many, many times. (What? a bug in my code? I'll just hack around that. Oh, that introduced a new bug? ...) Or maybe it's because I like hamsters. Or just that my name is Benjamin too. I don't know. But here is the story: (Normal text is taken directly from the book. The parenthesized + italicized bits are my own descriptions/commentary.)

What a nice clean page.

(Benjamin has just entered the scene)

I must be careful not to spoil it.

(said, as he leans with his hand on the page...)

Did I do that? I must have, it's my paw.

(Benjamin peers at the wall through his glasses, noting the four dots that compose his pawprint)

It should rub out easily enough.

(Somehow he has acquired himself a rubber - that's an "eraser", you sickos...)

A smudge. How did that happen?

(I guess hamster pawprints aren't made with pencil lead. Who knew?)

A dab of glue...


(Benjamin, in his attempt to get glue from a can with a paintbrush, managed to knock the can over, creating a rather large spill....)

... and a piece of paper.

No. I've made a mess of that. It looks awful.

(now a scrap of paper, complete with hamster-fur-infused glue leaking from the edges, covers the old pawprint.)

Why don't I spray the whole page with white paint?

(THERE you go, Benjamin - use technology to fix the problem! Spray paint shall surely save the day!)



This one ought to be white... Red!

(Strike two - third time's the charm?)

The last one must be white. Blue

(No, I guess not.)

What a horrible mess!

(Remember that hamster-hair and paper glued to the page? Well, now it's got a blue, a yellow, and a red spot over it. Although I must say, the blending of the colors is really quite pretty! somewhat.)

A nice wet sponge should do the trick.

(Benjamin dampens the sponge with some tap water.)

I'll wash it off.

(Good, old-fashioned elbow grease. There's nothing like it. Benjamin takes the sponge to the wall, and starts wiping like a madman..)

All that work, and it's worse than ever.

(You speak the truth, Benjamin - it's all wet and smeared, now.)

I'll pin a new sheet over the top...

(Now on plan 3.0)

... No, I won't, I'll sew it on.

(Benjamin stitches the blank sheet on top of the mess - plan 3.1, I guess)

I wish the stitching didn't show.

(It looks like a patch. None too attractive, really.)

I'd better tear the whole page out...

(When in doubt, trash it.)

... and throw it away.

(ahh.. back to a clean page)

A clean start --

(Wow, after all that work, Benjamin is tired! So of course he leans his hand on the wall again.)

-- I do like to leave things ...

(Benjamin exits stage right...)

... as I find them.

(... blissfully unaware of his fresh pawprint on the page.)

This is probably a copyright violation, but since the book is out of print, and the book is really all about the pictures, I don't feel too bad about ripping off the text.

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