I must say, I do like Harvey, Maggie, Austin and the rest of the characters at Brayside Retirement Villa in Colleen Nelson’s latest Harvey book, Harvey Takes the Lead.
Harvey is a West Highland Terrier who belongs to Maggie. A dog bred to kill rodents, he is also loyal and smart and has captured the hearts of residents from Brayside, where he is the unofficial therapy dog. Harvey is just one of the voices we hear in this middle grade book, which flips perspectives between the pup, Maggie and her friend Austin, who has a puppy of his own but who is still in that stage where she hasn’t developed the manners to yet hang out at the retirement home.
Soon Harvey himself may not be able to go to second home (where knows to stay out of the dinner hall, despite the delicious smells within it). The new assistant director, Hilary Appleby, arrives at starts enforcing new rules and both the residents and kids aren’t pleased.
There is so much going on in this book. Austin, who is being raised by a single mom who is between jobs, wants to go on the overnight school trip, but also doesn’t want to ask his mom as he knows she can’t afford it. Maggie auditions for the school play, doesn’t get the role but needs to work with Ndidi, who did. The residents are struggling with their own problems including Mr. Kowalski whose wife is in the hospital and he himself isn’t doing well.
The story is fast moving and the characters are strong. I am impressed by Maggie and Austin’s mature choices and I loved getting to learn about Mr. Kowalski’s life during the Secord World War. While you do not need to read Books 1 and 2 to understand what is going in Harvey Takes the Lead, I am going to suggest you may want to: the characters are great and I think the former books will provide more details about the crews’ backstories.
Harvey Takes the Lead is $22.95 and is from Pajama Press.
Northwind by the late Gary Paulsen had everything I like in a book – it’s based in the past, it has adventure, the character lives off the land and shows you how you can do it and nature in the form of orcas and bears (and luckily for Leif they were grizzlies rather than polar bears as I don’t think the later would have been so forgiving).
Yet, I found it a bit slow. It took me a while to read it and despite the constant action – poor Leif getting caught up in whirlpools, orca bubble feedings and so many whales he was surrounded – I wanted it to go a bit faster, but for Leif it was the first time in his short life where it his. He could do what he wanted and when he wanted. And for Leif, he just wanted to live by his own terms: stopping to to fish when he could, eating when he was hungry and sleeping when he was tired. And always learning.
The author’s note as to why he wrote this story was fascinating.
Northwind is from PGCBooks and retails for $23.75.
Anzu the Great Kaiju
Kaiju are born with the superpower to strike fear into the hearts of the residents of their cities. But when it’s Anzu’s turn to terrorize his people, he creates flowers and vines, bringing joy, beauty and laughter to the city. His family was disappointed and Anzu doubts he is a kaiju. A visit from his grandmother and Anzu becomes as terrifying as the rest of his family, but is this what he wants? “Can Anzu find a way to make his family proud and stay true to kind self.”
What an adorable book, both in the story by Benson Shum who is originally from Vancouver, British Columbia, and the illustrations – big, colourful and chunky. I love the way it looks. Shum is a Disney animator who has contributed to films including Frozen, Big Hero 6, Moana and Encanto, among others.
Anzu the Great Kaiju is from Raincoast Books and retails for $24.99.
Does a Bulldozer have a Butt?
Does a Bulldozer have a butt? It is a good question and the start of many questions about butts a curious child asks the dad as they walk through the city. Dad answers each butt question with a quick and witty response:
“Does a scarecrow have a butt? Yep, you stuff it with a straw one. And does a crayon have a butt? “Nope, but it can surely draw one.”
Butterflies clearly have butts as it’s in their name (hee, hee), as do sundaes, which are two scoops side by side.
This book made me laugh out loud from its title, right through all the things that have butts and why they have them. Do bulldozers have a butt? I guess you will have to read and see.
Copies of these books were provided by Pajama Press, PGCBooks
and Raincoast Books for an honest review. The opinions are my own.