cover image Henry’s Heart: A Boy, His Heart, and a New Best Friend

Henry’s Heart: A Boy, His Heart, and a New Best Friend

Cherise Mericle Harper. Holt/Ottaviano, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-8050-8989-9

As Harper (Cupcake) points out, if we gave the objects of our affection valentines in the shapes of actual hearts, the response would most likely be “Ewww! What is that thing?” Nonetheless, Harper offers up a heroic heart that looks a lot like the real thing “without the eyes and mouth, of course,” and he’s an immensely appealing figure, ideal for teaching readers about this important organ. Henry’s heart is chatty, vigilant, and authoritative; when something isn’t to his liking, he shoots a question up to the eyes like a commanding general to a field scout. But what starts out as a biological overview led by an engaging, unlikely character and packed with funny asides turns into a bit of a narrative mess, with Henry plunging into depression because he can’t have a dog. The solution is equally, well, halfhearted: Henry and his doctor have “a nice long chat,” and Henry gets the dog. Harper’s acrylic illustrations never lose their pertness or energy, but a book that promises to be both whimsical and wise winds up woolly and confused. Ages 5–8. (Nov.)