A lighthearted introduction to service dogs and their grateful partners.

HARLEY THE HERO

Harley has a special job at school—he helps Ms. Prichard feel safe.

Her students know that even though they can’t play with him while he’s wearing his service-dog vest, he can still lick their feet if they let him. Little Amelia, who often wears hearing-protection earmuffs, loves Harley, but she doesn’t want him near her feet. Just as Harley keeps Ms. Prichard safe, Amelia’s friend, the narrator, keeps her safe. He knows that “loud noises, weird smells, or too-close things” might upset her, so he’s extra vigilant. When there’s a fire one day, the students run to the door—everyone but Amelia. Her friend alerts Ms. Prichard. Harley tugs her too, and together they get Amelia outside. Harley’s a hero! Collins’ tale of neurodiversity, based on a true story, is really about Harley’s job as a service dog—from the title and front endpapers to the ending. The charming and likable toe-licking Harley eclipses the subtle mentions of neurodivergence—what it is and why it’s important to “normalize” it, as the flap copy states. The illustrations are inclusive, from the progress pride flag flying over the school under the Canadian maple leaf to the diverse classroom, which includes a child who uses a wheelchair. (The narrator and Ms. Prichard present White, and Amelia presents Asian.) However, the lack of information about neurodivergence may hinder the intended message.

A lighthearted introduction to service dogs and their grateful partners. (author's note, biographical note) (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 22, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-77278-195-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Pajama Press

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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Hee haw.

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THE WONKY DONKEY

The print version of a knee-slapping cumulative ditty.

In the song, Smith meets a donkey on the road. It is three-legged, and so a “wonky donkey” that, on further examination, has but one eye and so is a “winky wonky donkey” with a taste for country music and therefore a “honky-tonky winky wonky donkey,” and so on to a final characterization as a “spunky hanky-panky cranky stinky-dinky lanky honky-tonky winky wonky donkey.” A free musical recording (of this version, anyway—the author’s website hints at an adults-only version of the song) is available from the publisher and elsewhere online. Even though the book has no included soundtrack, the sly, high-spirited, eye patch–sporting donkey that grins, winks, farts, and clumps its way through the song on a prosthetic metal hoof in Cowley’s informal watercolors supplies comical visual flourishes for the silly wordplay. Look for ready guffaws from young audiences, whether read or sung, though those attuned to disability stereotypes may find themselves wincing instead or as well.

Hee haw. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: May 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-545-26124-1

Page Count: 26

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2018

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There’s nothing especially new here, but the good-natured celebration of books, reading, and libraries will charm fellow...

THE BOOK HOG

A porcine hoarder of books learns to read—and to share.

The Book Hog’s obsession is clear from the start. Short declarative sentences describe his enthusiasm (“The Book Hog loved books”), catalog the things he likes about the printed page, and eventually reveal his embarrassing secret (“He didn’t know how to read”). While the text is straightforward, plenty of amusing visual details will entertain young listeners. A picture of the Book Hog thumbing through a book while seated on the toilet should induce some giggles. The allusive name of a local bookshop (“Wilbur’s”) as well as the covers of a variety of familiar and much-loved books (including some of the author’s own) offer plenty to pore over. And the fact that the titles become legible only after our hero learns to read is a particularly nice touch. A combination of vignettes, single-page illustrations and double-page spreads that feature Pizzoli’s characteristic style—heavy black outlines, a limited palette of mostly salmon and mint green, and simple shapes—move the plot along briskly. Librarians will appreciate the positive portrayal of Miss Olive, an elephant who welcomes the Book Hog warmly to storytime, though it’s unlikely most will be able to match her superlative level of service.

There’s nothing especially new here, but the good-natured celebration of books, reading, and libraries will charm fellow bibliophiles, and the author’s fans will enjoy making another anthropomorphic animal friend. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-03689-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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