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Monday, July 27, 2015

WOW! Women on Writing Book Review, Giveaway, and Book Blog Tour for "There's a Hamster in the Dashboard: A Life in Pets" by David W. Berner

Thank you to WOW! Women on Writing for allowing us to participate in this tour!

Today's Reviewer: Cathy Hansen is a wife, mom, teacher, independent
beauty consultant, and small business owner. She and her husband operate SeedsNBeans, a local nature store, in Two Rivers, Wisconsin.

Cathy Writes:

Anyone who has ever loved a pet will enjoy There’s a Hamster in the Dashboard by David W. Berner. A cute collection of essays about various pets the author has owned, the book reminded me of pets I’ve owned, and led me to ponder the lessons they’ve taught me, as well as the lessons my children are learning from our pets.

Berner’s tales of a crazy cat, a hamster named Tony that unexpectedly had babies, a pet lizard, a spider captured and studied for a few days, a dog who got him in trouble on his paper route, and others reminded me of some of my own family’s experiences with pets. There was the cat who only returned home when he smelled freshly caught fish, two escape artist hamsters who met untimely and unfortunate deaths, a hermit crab death, swallowtail butterflies that emerged from their chrysalides in late December and were fed homemade nectar and later given to a museum butterfly habitat, a dog who went with me on my paper route, and others. Reading his essays was like a trip down memory lane. Reminiscent of Marley and Me, There’s a Hamster in the Dashboard doesn’t just tell the tale of the pets’ lives, but the experiences gained, lessons learned, and joys and sorrows shared because of the animals’ presence in his life.

The essays also cover situations where the author admits he should have known better. Berner’s honesty about times when he wasn’t the best pet owner was initially startling to me, and I was tempted to judge, but after reading the entire book, I admire the honesty. Many pet owners have learned and become better pet owners because of their pets, and it would not do the experience justice to sugar-coat it or leave out the negative times or less than flattering moments. Sharing these moments can be helpful to others, both in learning from those experiences without committing the same errors, but also in allowing pet owners to let go of the guilt they might feel over pet experiences gone wrong.

My 10 and 12 year old daughters, intrigued by the title and colorful cover, grabbed the book off the counter, and have enjoyed the essays as well, though other parents will want to know that the author’s references to a young boy’s natural curiosity about x-ray vision glasses might provoke a few questions or raised eyebrows from their children.

Unsuspecting parents should also be warned that Berner makes an excellent case for why children should grow up with pets, and not just for the purpose of practicing responsibilities, like we might expect. Berner goes beyond that and talks about the little things that we learn when we aren’t really paying attention. According to Berner, “It’s simplistic, but true: we become who we are by where we’ve been, who we’ve been with, by all that has surrounded us, all that we have permitted into our daily existence. It may come in a flash, or it may work to shape us in a more methodical, stealth-like way, tiptoeing into our reality undetected.” This essay collection tells the tales of the lessons Berner’s pets have taught him and how sharing his life with those pets have shaped his life. It makes me ponder the lessons our 2 dogs and 2 cats, along with the monarch caterpillars that come into our lives each summer are teaching my children . . . and as I type this, I reflect on the constant begging for a snake, lizard, or whatever other critter one of the kiddos has decided is “the only thing I’ll ever ask for” THIS week!

About the Book: A book of essays by award-winning author and journalist David W. Berner is the next best thing to storytelling around a bonfire. In There’s a Hamster in the Dashboard, Berner shares stories of “a life in pets”—from a collie that herds Berner home when the author goes “streaking” through the neighborhood as a two-year-old, to a father crying in front of his son for the only time in his life while burying the family dog on the Fourth of July. And from the ant farm that seems like a great learning experience (until the ants learn how to escape), to the hamster that sets out on its own road trip (but only gets as far as the dashboard). Along the way, Berner shows that pets not only connect us with the animal world, but also with each other and with ourselves. The result is a collection of essays that is insightful and humorous, entertaining and touching.

Paperback: 138 Pages
Genre: Memoir, Pets, Essays
Publisher: Dream of Things (April 23, 2015)
ISBN-10: 0990840719
ISBN-13: 978-0990840718
Twitter hashtag: # HamsterDash

There’s a Hamster in the Dashboard: A Life in Pets is available as an e-book and paperback at Amazon,  Barnes & Noble, and your local independent bookstore.

About the Author:
David W. Berner is a journalist, broadcaster, teacher, and author of two award-winning books: Accidental Lessons, which earned the Royal Dragonfly Grand Prize for Literature, and Any Road Will Take You There, which was a Grand Prize Finalist for the 2015 Hoffer Award for Books. Berner’s stories have been published in a number of literary magazines and journals, and his broadcast reporting and audio documentaries have aired on the CBS Radio Network and dozens of public radio stations across America. He teaches at Columbia College Chicago.

Find more about David by visiting his website,, connect with him on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter @DavidWBerner.

----------Upcoming Blog Tour Dates

Monday, August 3 @ Sioux’s Page
Sioux reviews David W Berner's latest book There's a Hamster in the Dashboard: A Life in Pets.

Thursday, August 6 @ Selling Books
"Is Your Writing Space the Right Space" is today's topic as David W Berner writes the guest post at Cathy Stucker's Selling Books blog. Don't miss this great post and wonderful opportunity to learn more about Berner's latest book There's a Hamster in the Dashboard: A Life in Pets.

Thursday, August 13 @ MC Simon Writes
MC Simon reviews the latest book by David W Berner There's a Hamster in the Dashboard: A Life in Pets and offers readers a giveaway of this fabulous collection of essays.

Thursday, August 13 @ Lisa Haselton
Join David W Berner as he writes today's guest blog post at the blog of Lisa Haselton. Today's topic is: "How the Story of Your Pet Can Tell Your Story." Learn more about this and Berner's latest book There's a Hamster in the Dashboard: A Life in Pets.

Keep up with the WOW! Women on Writing Book Blog stops and giveaways in real time by following us on Twitter @WOWBlogTour.

Get Involved! If you have a website or blog and would like to host one of our touring authors or schedule a tour of your own, please email me at:


Book Giveaway Contest:
To win a copy of There’s a Hamster in the Dashboard please leave a comment about this post, (a question for Hansen or Berner would be great). The giveaway contest closes this Friday, July 31st at 12:00 AM EST. We will announce the winner the same day as a comment on this post.


  1. What a great review, so well written. I wish I could do as well when I write reviews.
    Cathy Contino

  2. I'm a big animal lover, so this sounds great. Which pet has been your favorite?

  3. Awwww....thanks for the compliment! As far as my favorite pet, I'd have to say the Guernsey cow that was my fair animal from the time I was 9 and I first got her as a one week old calf that I had to feed her every morning before school, until I was about 12 or 13. Because she was halter trained from the very beginning, and was treated as a pet, she never really acted like a cow, more like an overgrown dog! Our dog Grant is pretty fabulous too! :)

  4. Thank you, Cathy, for sharing a very thoughtful (and entertaining!) review. And thank you, Crystal, for hosting the review. I'm biased (I'm David's publisher), but I like the book a lot too. I also happen to know that Mike, the lab mentioned in one of the essays near the end of the book, recently passed away. Very sad. But she (yes, Mike was a "she"!) had a very good life. The book appealed to me because I've also been a pet lover my whole life...mainly dogs, but also cats (currently have two), hamsters, chameleons, and birds (Diamond Doves from Australia). My favorite was my black lab, Kallie. She's not around anymore, but I still have her collar and tags hanging on the door knob to my office.

  5. I'm sorry to hear that Mike has passed. I was on the edge of my seat reading the part about Mike's excursion, because I was almost certain it was going to lead to the discovery of a dog who had simply crawled away to be alone to die! I was so happy when she was found, and entertained by WHERE she was found and what she was doing! We had a black lab for a short time too. She was an alpha and My husband hated her because she was a bit of a bully to his dog, but She wasn't with us long as she died in the operating table due to some kind of allergy to anesthesia during her spay procedure! Definitely not a common occurrence (so please DO have your pet spayed or neutered), but very sudden and tragic.

  6. Thank you all for all the sweet words, especially about Mike. And of course, all your remembrances of all your pets. It;s amazing how much impact they have on us. Cathy—thank you for the kind words about the book. I hope you and others can see some of your own experiences in mine. Regarding the question on the favorite pet—Well, that's a tough one. My favorite is usually the one I have at the moment. But if I HAD to choose, it would be my first—Sally, the collie—the one who herded me back home after wandering half-naked down the street as a toddler. True story. :)

  7. Steph, you're the winner!!!! Email your address to