Happy-go-lucky Benji Barnsworth and his fellow underdogs pursue goofy adventures through Washington, D.C., in Lee’s feel-good sequel to Elvis and the Underdogs (2013).
It’s been three months since Elvis, Benji’s talking service/therapy/emotional-support dog was returned to his original assignment: the president of the United States. Landing in the hospital yet again, Benji searches for videos of the curmudgeonly first dog and finds Elvis wagging an urgent message in Morse code, which Alexander Chang-Cohen, his “human computer” friend, naturally deciphers. Benji, along with Alexander and perky star athlete Taisy, must get to Washington (via convenient coincidences tailored to their character traits) and rescue Elvis from becoming a prime minister’s birthday present. It’s best to abandon disbelief as the “pack” wreaks havoc on the White House in a series of slapstick mishaps and miscommunications. The service-dog terminology remains careless, but Elvis’ elaborately denied jealousy of Benji’s new dog provides comic banter as well as relationship development—he gets in some great deadpan one-liners. Alexander and Taisy are nearly caricatures, but at least their extreme traits illustrate the book’s message: Friendship “requires a tolerance pact. You tolerate all my weirdo quirky things and I’ll tolerate yours.” The resolution is fluffy if implausible, with any loose ends tied in a bow—but then, the chronically, wackily unfortunate Benji deserves to have something go right.
A light, warm and (very) fuzzy read. (Fiction. 8-12)