Harvey Takes the Lead

Harvey Takes the Lead
Co-Authors / Illustrators
Age Range
Release Date
May 17, 2022
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There’s nothing quite like the loving companionship of a loyal dog. When Harvey’s status as Brayside’s comfort dog comes into question, the elderly residents are quick to stand up for him.
Mr. Kowalski, a longstanding Brayside resident, is struggling with his wife’s recent hospitalization. As Harvey watches over him, Mr. Kowalski shares stories of his youth during World War II—tales which fascinates Harvey’s friend Austin. At the same time, the newly appointed Assistant Director Hilary Appleby, the person who wants to get rid of Harvey, also creates unreasonable rules which make the residents of Brayside miserable.

The new school season for Austin and Harvey’s owner Maggie proves to be harder than expected. Maggie’s audition for the school play of Annie doesn’t go as planned, with the role she wanted going to Ndidi, who rarely comes out to rehearsals. Austin, for his part, is battling shame around not being able to afford a school trip.

Editor review

1 review
Kindness will be rewarded.
Overall rating
Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
What worked:
Dog lovers will enjoy the story as two dogs are important characters, although there is a stark contrast between them. Harvey is a lovable, well-behaved terrier mix who belongs to Maggie, while Bertie is energetic, mischievous, and is owned by Austin. The residents of a retirement home love it when the dogs come to visit even though Bertie’s been known to be a little destructive. Harvey, on the other hand, thinks everyone is a friend and greets them with tail wags and kisses. He’s also able to sense the range in moods and knows when to play and when to sit and listen.
Much of the story takes place at Brayside Retirement Villa, as Maggie and Austin volunteer there regularly. Conflicts arise when a new assistant director is hired and wants to install new rules to keep the residents safe, even though no one thinks they’re in danger. Some of the rules are directed at Harvey, as the woman clearly has a problem with his presence. A serious illness and missing money add to the drama, and one elderly man searches for hope by reflecting on the past. Through it all, readers will witness a caring, supportive community and admire how everyone rises to support each other.
Young readers can identify with the problems faced by Maggie and Austin. Maggie tries out for a role in her school’s production of “Annie”, but things don’t work out the way she planned. She’s also upset at how her dog’s being treated by the new assistant director, and she’s not sure what to do. Austin is struggling with his family’s lack of money and worries about not being able to go on a class trip. He doesn’t want to upset his mother and hasn’t asked her about the money, and he’s embarrassed to share the truth with his teacher and classmate. Through it all, Maggie and Austin remain dedicated to helping the residents of Brayside.
What didn’t work as well:
Alternating chapters focus on Austin, Maggie, and her dog Harvey. The point of view changes from first-person for Austin’s chapter to third-person for the rest of the book. It’s not clear why it’s more important to be inside Austin’s mind than Maggie’s, but catching a glimpse into Harvey’s doggie brain is a nice touch.
The Final Verdict:
Kindness will be rewarded. The early parts of the book share a simple tale of two kids volunteering at a retirement village, but the plot slowly evolves into an emotional journey of hope, caring, and friendship. The story unites generations in a sensitive way, and I recommend you give it a shot.
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