cover image Elvis and the Underdogs

Elvis and the Underdogs

Jenny Lee, illus. by Kelly Light. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, $16.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-062-23554-1

Ten-year-old Benji Wendell Barns-worth is constantly in and out of the hospital with a smattering of illnesses and allergies; he faints often, and he recently had an epileptic seizure. Getting a therapy dog—a gigantic, talking, Doritos-eating Newfoundland named Parker Elvis Pembroke IV—spares Benji the humiliation of wearing a safety helmet at all times. Elvis, as Benji dubs him, is confident and very well-spoken, and his influence helps Benji assert himself around his well-meaning but suffocating mother, as well as seek adventure with his new friends: Taisy, the pressured daughter of a celebrity athlete, and Alexander, a new student with a “total recall brain.” This children’s book debut from Lee, a writer and producer on Disney’s Shake It Up sitcom (and clearly a dog lover), is suffused with optimism, despite Benji’s many health problems. Benji comes across as down-to-earth and sympathetic—without being pitiable—and the underlying theme about strength found in companionship gives the story just enough gravity. Light contributes b&w digital spot cartoons, not all seen by PW. Ages 8–12. Author’s agent: Sally Woffard-Girand, Union Literary. Illustrator’s agent: Elizabeth Harding, Curtis Brown. (May)