Kirkus Reviews QR Code
SPEAK UP, TOMMY! by Jacqueline Dembar Greene


by Jacqueline Dembar Greene, illustrated by Deborah Melmon

Age Range: 3 - 8

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-7613-7497-8
Publisher: Kar-Ben


There are no easy victories in life, but no one has told the author.

Dogs talk all the time in children’s books, but they hardly ever speak a foreign language. Samson is a police dog who doesn’t obey. He was trained in Israel, where all the commands were given in Hebrew. In the United States, everyone talks to him in English—except for one boy named Tommy. “In Israel,” Greene writes, “his name was Tomer, which means ‘palm tree.’…Now it was easier to be Tommy.” Whenever he speaks up, the other students snicker and tell him he talks funny. You already know what will happen next: Samson will refuse to stop barking. Tommy will calm him down with a word or two of Hebrew. The other kids will stop laughing. The problem is that these things happen all at once. The instant the dog quiets down, a student is saying, “Maybe you could teach us Hebrew.” This story is, of course, a fable about being yourself, but it doesn’t need to move at the speed of a fable. Everything in the book is plausible—it’s based on a true story, according to the author's note—but at this pace it feels about as real as a talking dog.

The story ends on a perfect note of triumph, but it might be a better book if it were a touch less perfect. (English/Hebrew dog commands) (Picture book. 3-8)