Tongue-in-cheek, label-happy humor reminiscent of Mélanie Watts abounds in Harper’s latest, a genius pairing of fiction and nonfiction.
Starting off with some X-ray views of a young boy and his heart, readers are presented with some facts and misconceptions about the human heart, made painless by the humorous speech-bubble asides from Henry’s sister and friends. One fact above all is emphasized—a healthy heart that pumps blood and removes waste requires exercise and proper nutrition. Therefore, Henry’s mother sends him outside for some fresh air, and his Dad invites him for a walk downtown…the fateful walk on which he first sees the love of his life. She sets his heart beating so wildly that the anthropomorphized organ has to ask Henry’s eyes what is going on to cause such a reaction. Leaving the puppy in the pet store seems to break poor Henry’s spirit—he can only mope in his room, while his heart bemoans the lack of exercise. Henry’s concerned parents finally consult a doctor, whose prescription pleases everyone, especially Henry’s exercise-starved heart. Harper’s acrylic-and-collage artwork with its filled-in stick figures is a perfect match for the irreverent humor of the text. From the amusing asides to the charts about healthy snacks and causes of rapid heartbeats, there will be few page turns unaccompanied by laughter.
The story should please those hopeful readers who are puppy-starved themselves, while the learning hidden within should set parents’ and educators’ hearts aflutter. (Informational picture book. 5-8)