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HARLEY THE HERO by Peggy Collins


by Peggy Collins ; illustrated by Peggy Collins

Pub Date: June 22nd, 2021
ISBN: 978-1-77278-195-3
Publisher: Pajama Press

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)