Harley the Hero by Peggy Collins. Pajama Press, 9781772781953, 2021
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4
Genre: Picture book
What did you like about the book? This book is about an elementary school class with many diverse abilities, including a teacher with a service dog. Students in the class know what they can and can’t do with Harley, and it is mostly action focused. (For example, they know they can’t distract him, but they can smile at him, write him messages, and be on their best behavior so he can do his job more easily.) The teacher is described as having an “invisible disability” and Harvey helps her feel safe, which I think is an appropriate and positive description for young children. Amelia is a student in the class who is bothered by noise, smells, and other sensory disturbances, and her best friend helps her feel safe. At the same time, she helps him by listening to his stories and sharpening his pencils extra sharp. All different abilities are described without focusing on what the person cannot do. Additionally, the illustrations show a child in a wheelchair, a child who wears glasses, noise-canceling headphones, alternative seating options like ball chairs, and a rainbow pride flag flying in front of the school. When there is a small fire in the school, Harley looks out not only for the teacher but also Amelia, to make sure everyone gets out safely. At the end, there is a note by a teacher who has Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and has a service dog who inspired the story.
Anything you did not like about the book. The story winds up very quickly, especially after such a big event.
To whom would you recommend this book? This would make a great read aloud for an elementary school classroom. I would specifically give it to kids who like dogs or who may interact with service dogs. Read-alike with Rescue and Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship (Kensky) and Mogie: The Heart of the House (Appelt).
Who should buy this book? Elementary school librarians, public librarians, teachers
Where would you shelve it? Picture books
Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Sarah Bickel, Greenlodge Elementary School, Dedham Massachusetts
Date of review: April 18, 2021