[Reviewed from Copy Courtesy of Margaret K. McElderry Books.]
Hey, Boy by author Benjamin Strouse and illustrator Jennifer Phelan is a poignant story about a young boy hurrying to grow up so that he can keep a stray dog he found and loves.
After breaking his arm, his mother won’t let him keep the dog because she worries he isn’t grown up enough. The dog is then surrendered to an animal shelter. The boy promises the dog they will be together soon and that he will grow up “faster than anybody!”
A couple adopts the dog send the boy a letter inviting him to visit. Upon each visit, that gradually becomes more infrequent, the boy tells the dog of a particular milestone that he has accomplished (he made his own lunch, biked on his own) and how it means they’ll be together soon. Years pass and one day we see the boy grown up. Readers will wonder which way this story will go. Will our hearts be broken? Will the boy fulfill his promise to the dog? I wish more endings were like this one.
Told in a precise and delicate balance of text and illustrations, this is a gentle but powerful story about friendship, delayed gratification, and growing up. The illustrations strike a perfect balance of modern and timeless, personal and universal, reality and fantasy. It makes for an approachable and yet refined reading experience. The tension of wondering what will happen and if the boy and dog will get to be together is excruciatingly and expertly done. While the story has a satisfying and uplifting ending, Hey, Boy poignantly illustrates how rare such endings tend to be.
An especially moving story for anyone who has – or has had – to be apart from someone they love and is waiting to be with them again.
My three and six-year-old sons are enamored with this gorgeous book and only see the joy in it. Hey, Boy is thought-provoking, grounding, and a template of hope and patience for children and adults alike.
Adults will need to take a good deep breath before the first reading but subsequent readings are much easier. Children will cheer the ending and promptly ask for a dog.
Recommended Ages 4 to 8++. Margaret K. McElderry Books. May 2017. 48 pages. ISBN: 978-1481471015. Fiction.
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Where Obtained: I received a review copy from the publisher. No other compensation was received. All opinions are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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