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Reviews for Elvis and the underdogs

by Jenny Lee ; illustrations by Kelly Light.

Horn Book
(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Who says dogs aren't allowed in school? After sickly ten-year-old Benji has a seizure, he gets a new therapy dog who can go everywhere with him. Not only is the dog way better than the dorky helmet his mom had him wearing, the dog can also talk. Elvis the dog brings Benji together with an unlikely trio of friends in this spirited novel. (c) Copyright 2013. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Lee's debut novel, a quirky if formulaic take on bullying and friendship, falls short in its description of the partnership between Benji, the narrator, and Elvis, his talking service dog. Benji Barnsworth suffers from a host of ailments and faints under stress--which happens often, since he's Billy Thompson's favorite bullying target. When Benji has a seizure, he trades his new helmet for a service dog: a huge Newfoundland with a smart mouth. Elvis isn't exactly man's best friend, but his presence allows Benji to befriend Taisy, an overwhelmed athlete with an exfootball pro father, and Alexander, a "human GPS" with a photographic memory. Benji's witty, slightly cynical voice and close family support are the most believable aspects of an otherwise implausible book. His friends are caring but stereotypical; Asian-American Alexander's intellect borders on caricature, and Taisy's relationship with her father follows sitcom formula. The service-dog aspect reads like an afterthought. Even Benji's doctor uses "service dog" and "therapy dog" interchangeably despite their different functions, and Benji is unable to say what training Elvis received, which seems remarkably incurious, given their relationship. Elvis' job is so unclear that he could just as easily be an ordinary dog dispensing tough love. Ultimately, the thin plot is far-fetched, even for a story about a talking dog, and readers aware of the true role of service animals will be annoyed by the inaccurate portrayal. (Fiction. 8-12)]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

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