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Elvis and the Underdogs

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In the tradition of funny and heartwarming bestsellers like Wonder and the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, this is the story of a sickly boy whose life is turned upside down when he gets a therapy dog…who can talk! Benji Wendell Barnsworth is a small ten-year-old boy with a big personality. Born premature, Benji is sickly, accident prone, and at the hospital so often he even ha In the tradition of funny and heartwarming bestsellers like Wonder and the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, this is the story of a sickly boy whose life is turned upside down when he gets a therapy dog…who can talk! Benji Wendell Barnsworth is a small ten-year-old boy with a big personality. Born premature, Benji is sickly, accident prone, and at the hospital so often he even has his own punch card. That is, until the day Benji wakes up from a particularly bad spell. Concerned for Benji's health, the doctor offers him two options: wear the world's ugliest padded helmet or get a therapy dog. Benji chooses the dog, of course. But when a massive crate arrives at Benji's house, out walks a two-hundred-pound Newfoundland. And that isn't even the strangest thing about the dog. He announces that his name is Parker Elvis Pembroke IV. That's right, this dog can talk! And boy, is he bossy. Having a bossy dog can come in handy, though. Elvis brings out the dog lover in the most surprising people and shows Benji that making new friends may not be as scary as he once thought.


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In the tradition of funny and heartwarming bestsellers like Wonder and the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, this is the story of a sickly boy whose life is turned upside down when he gets a therapy dog…who can talk! Benji Wendell Barnsworth is a small ten-year-old boy with a big personality. Born premature, Benji is sickly, accident prone, and at the hospital so often he even ha In the tradition of funny and heartwarming bestsellers like Wonder and the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, this is the story of a sickly boy whose life is turned upside down when he gets a therapy dog…who can talk! Benji Wendell Barnsworth is a small ten-year-old boy with a big personality. Born premature, Benji is sickly, accident prone, and at the hospital so often he even has his own punch card. That is, until the day Benji wakes up from a particularly bad spell. Concerned for Benji's health, the doctor offers him two options: wear the world's ugliest padded helmet or get a therapy dog. Benji chooses the dog, of course. But when a massive crate arrives at Benji's house, out walks a two-hundred-pound Newfoundland. And that isn't even the strangest thing about the dog. He announces that his name is Parker Elvis Pembroke IV. That's right, this dog can talk! And boy, is he bossy. Having a bossy dog can come in handy, though. Elvis brings out the dog lover in the most surprising people and shows Benji that making new friends may not be as scary as he once thought.

30 review for Elvis and the Underdogs

  1. 4 out of 5

    Debbie McNeil

    I think the description of this book being a cross between Wonder & Wimpy Kid is a bit shallow. It is a unique book with a unique voice and quirky-but-lovable fully drawn characters. I would have given it 5 stars if it was a bit shorter and didn't have the once used phrase of "bat-poop crazy." Being a teacher, I never like when bullying is not stopped by adults in a story but there was more to it in this book and it left me satisfied. For a book about a talking dog, the characters seemed very re I think the description of this book being a cross between Wonder & Wimpy Kid is a bit shallow. It is a unique book with a unique voice and quirky-but-lovable fully drawn characters. I would have given it 5 stars if it was a bit shorter and didn't have the once used phrase of "bat-poop crazy." Being a teacher, I never like when bullying is not stopped by adults in a story but there was more to it in this book and it left me satisfied. For a book about a talking dog, the characters seemed very real!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

    Sooooooo cuuuuuuute!!!! I can't wait to read the sequel. Why did it take me so long to pick this up?? As a side note Mom got this for me cause my puppy is named Elvis lol Sooooooo cuuuuuuute!!!! I can't wait to read the sequel. Why did it take me so long to pick this up?? As a side note Mom got this for me cause my puppy is named Elvis lol

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jess

    This took me so long to read!! I just didn't like the way it was written. Then again this is a kids book. I liked the story tho. Dogs are one of my fav animals. This took me so long to read!! I just didn't like the way it was written. Then again this is a kids book. I liked the story tho. Dogs are one of my fav animals.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ann Haefele

    Benji, a sickly ten year old boy and small for his age, goes up against a bully with the help of his new service dog named Elvis. The story, a realistic fantasy book (his dog talks and can be understood by only Benji) grew on me, and I think it would make a good read aloud for 3rd or 4th graders. The author is a writer and producer for the Disney channel, so the writing feels more like a script at times,but once I got Into the story I became used to the writing style and liked the message it giv Benji, a sickly ten year old boy and small for his age, goes up against a bully with the help of his new service dog named Elvis. The story, a realistic fantasy book (his dog talks and can be understood by only Benji) grew on me, and I think it would make a good read aloud for 3rd or 4th graders. The author is a writer and producer for the Disney channel, so the writing feels more like a script at times,but once I got Into the story I became used to the writing style and liked the message it gives those kids who are underdogs and susceptible to bullying. I also liked how the bully character did not make a 180 degree turn about, but Benji grew to understand the bully and how to handle him. The voice of his dog Elvis is the reasoning voice that helps Benji begin to understand how to make friends and handle bullies. While the story describes Elvis as a service dog, it is unfortunate that the blurb describes Elvis as a therapy dog, as that is not the case.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Elvina Barclay

    Cute story and a lot of fun to read. My only criticism would be the author using the term "therapy" dog and "service" dog to mean the same thing. They have completely different jobs. Elvis is trained to perform tasks and as such is a true service dog. Also Benji uses and epi pen when he has an allergic reaction to walnuts and the kids just go inside and get a glass of water. If you use an epi pen you must always call 911 and go to the hospital. You've just injected someone with some serious medic Cute story and a lot of fun to read. My only criticism would be the author using the term "therapy" dog and "service" dog to mean the same thing. They have completely different jobs. Elvis is trained to perform tasks and as such is a true service dog. Also Benji uses and epi pen when he has an allergic reaction to walnuts and the kids just go inside and get a glass of water. If you use an epi pen you must always call 911 and go to the hospital. You've just injected someone with some serious medication and they could still continue to have another reaction and need further treatment. But it's a real fun read.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Erica

    I really enjoyed this book and it was a fast read. My only complaint is that the two non-white characters are awefully stereotypical. Taisy if a super athletic African American girl, like the best athlete in the school, and Alexander is a nerdy, musical prodegy, Asian American with parents who are only concerned about his academics.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Mai

    Elvis and the Underdogs (Elvis and the Underdogs #1) by Jenny Lee, Kelly Light (Illustrations) Juvenile fiction May 14, 2013 Balzer + Bray Goodreads | Amazon | Website SCORECARD Entertainment level: A+ Service dog representation: B- In the tradition of funny and heartwarming bestsellers like Wonder and the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, this is the story of a sickly boy whose life is turned upside down when he gets a therapy dog…who can talk! Benji Wendell Barnsworth is a small ten-year-old boy with a big p Elvis and the Underdogs (Elvis and the Underdogs #1) by Jenny Lee, Kelly Light (Illustrations) Juvenile fiction May 14, 2013 Balzer + Bray Goodreads | Amazon | Website SCORECARD Entertainment level: A+ Service dog representation: B- In the tradition of funny and heartwarming bestsellers like Wonder and the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, this is the story of a sickly boy whose life is turned upside down when he gets a therapy dog…who can talk! Benji Wendell Barnsworth is a small ten-year-old boy with a big personality. Born premature, Benji is sickly, accident prone, and at the hospital so often he even has his own punch card. That is, until the day Benji wakes up from a particularly bad spell. Concerned for Benji’s health, the doctor offers him two options: wear the world’s ugliest padded helmet or get a therapy dog. Benji chooses the dog, of course. But when a massive crate arrives at Benji’s house, out walks a two-hundred-pound Newfoundland. And that isn’t even the strangest thing about the dog. He announces that his name is Parker Elvis Pembroke IV. That’s right, this dog can talk! And boy, is he bossy. Having a bossy dog can come in handy, though. Elvis brings out the dog lover in the most surprising people and shows Benji that making new friends may not be as scary as he once thought. *~* This week on the blog, I interviewed Shadow the Seizure Response Dog Guide and he very eloquently explained exactly what his job entails. So being a former elementary school reading buddy, I was curious. How does his reality translate into fiction? I hopped online to browse my local library’s overdrive collection and was pleased to discover a dog who seemed to have a similar job. Readers, meet Elvis. He’s a massive Newfoundland dog who helps his 10-year-old handler Benji with his new diagnosis of idiopathic epilepsy. He’s funny, well-meaning and a little over-confident. And did I mention that he has a very prim and proper British accent? It’s official. I’m a FAN of Elvis. His initial meeting with Benji had me huffing with laughter. “Hi, doggy. My name is Benji. What’s your name, huh?” The dog opened his mouth again. I thought he was going to lick the other half of my face, but instead he said, “Very nice to meet you, Benji. My name is Parker Elvis Pembroke IV. You may call me Parker Elvis Pembroke. Or Mr. Pembroke, if you prefer.” … He really spoke his words very clearly for a dog. In fact, he sounded like those boring Shakespeare movies that my dad watches on the BBC or a butler on a TV show. If there’s anyone in need of a dog, it’s Benji. He spends more time in the hospital than he does in school, and in many ways, his prolonged absences and his health issues leave him isolated from his peers and vulnerable to the machinations of Billy the 4th grade bully. Like any other 4th grader, Benji yearns to belong and to be just like everyone else. There was that word again, “special”. What I wouldn’t give to just be regular. Benji starts out wanting to blend in, fearing the qualities that make him unique. He believes that his otherness – really, his chronic illness – is the reason why he doesn’t have any friends and why his mom is so overprotective of him. It takes his service dog Elvis to point out that what he really needs is to “find a pack”, a group of friends who look out for one another and aren’t afraid to be themselves. With Elvis’ encouragement, Benji does just that. He befriends the new kid at school who is also a target for bullying and the very tall, very athletic girl in his grade who I think he secretly has a crush on. Together, with Alexander, Taisy and Elvis, Benji is able to confront his bully, who has secrets of his own. Overall, this story amused me, moved me and has me recommending it to elementary-school aged children – with one caveat. I have some reservations about the service dog representation in this novel. But let’s start with what author Jenny Lee got right. THE GOOD 1) She explains that service dogs help individuals with a wide range of disabilities. Service dogs have lots of skills, and they help a lot of different people. There are service dogs for people who are blind or deaf, for people who have seizures, for people unable to walk. 2) She outlines service dog training. Dr. Helen described the farm [where service dog Elvis was trained] like a college for dogs. A lot of dogs go, but only a few ever graduate. Some dogs train for more than two years. 3)She gives a specific example of a fetching task performed by a service dog. “I didn’t offer [Elvis] three bags – he actually grabbed three bags on his own and put them by me at the register when I was getting my coffee. It really was quite remarkable.” 4)She highlights that service dogs have a high level of empathy when their handler experiences heightened emotions. … [Elvis] placed his nose under my left arm and tossed his head so that my hand landed on top of his head, making me pet him. 5) She gives a great example of an activity that many service-dogs-in training participate in as puppies, myself included. Elvis said that Lola Beth had some learning disabilities and had a very hard time learning to read. One of her therapists suggested she should try reading to a dog, because that would offer her a sense of purpose but at the same time she didn’t have to worry about the dog judging her if she made any mistakes. 6) She explains service dog etiquette for the public. “Technically, [Elvis is] not supposed to let anyone hug, pet, kiss, or baby-talk [him] when [he’s] working …” 7) She explains the main job of a seizure response service dog. Here: The dogs know when an episode is about to come on, and they know exactly how to get the person to safety, and to also call for help. And here: “My mom says that dogs who have this sort of training are able to sense it before I have a seizure, and then they make sure I’m in a safe location in case I fall down. They also know how to call for help.” 8) She explains service dog public access laws. “Well, Benjamin, of course if you had a service dog for medical purposes, it would be allowed in the school because state law mandates that.” THE GNARLY Jenny Lee probably took some (liberal) artistic license, which is understandable because this is children’s fiction. 1) She uses the terms “therapy dog” and “service dog” interchangeably, though this could be because it’s Benji doing the talking and the narrating… And he’s a kid. For interested readers, I explained the difference between a therapy dog and service dog in my post here . Here: “… if I had a therapy service dog, would I be allowed to bring him to school?” And here: Dr. Helen told us therapy dogs are used for people with epilepsy or other brain disorders. 2) Although she later has Elvis explain proper service dog etiquette, she starts off with a bad example. “Now who is this handsome big fellow?” [Dr. Helen] asked, leaning down to pet Elvis. 3) Elvis the service dog barks – and it isn’t on command, which is a specific skill to call for help. Elvis answered my mom with a short bark. 4)She significantly shortens the wait time for a service dog – 2 weeks! – though this is explained away as a favor to Benji’s doctor. The wait time is 1-3 years, sometimes longer depending on the program. 5)There’s no team training where Benji learns how to work with Elvis. Usually, new handlers are invited to “service dog school” where they bond with their new service dog and learn how to work together as a well-oiled machine. But somehow, Benji and Elvis go to school together immediately, and as some parents will tell you, the process of bringing a student’s service dog with them to school isn’t so straightforward… That being said, don’t let these contradictory points dissuade you from reading this book or recommending it to a child you know. They’re a great opportunity to open up a discussion about service dogs. And I have to hand it to her, Jenny Lee really tried to get it right, while writing an entertaining story for children. This is the first book in the series, and it has a bit of a bittersweet ending. I’m hooked, though, and I want to find out the rest of Benji and Elvis’ adventures.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Janete

    3,5 star. Scrib text + audio in English and Portuguese from Google Translate. Snopysys: "From Jenny Lee, writer on the Disney Channel show Shake It Up!, the number-one-rated kids' show in the country, this feel-good middle-grade novel is about a sickly boy whose life is turned upside down when he gets a therapy dog . . . who can talk! Benji Wendell Barnsworth is a small ten-year-old boy with a big personality. Born premature, Benji is sickly, accident-prone, and at the hospital so often he even ha 3,5 star. Scrib text + audio in English and Portuguese from Google Translate. Snopysys: "From Jenny Lee, writer on the Disney Channel show Shake It Up!, the number-one-rated kids' show in the country, this feel-good middle-grade novel is about a sickly boy whose life is turned upside down when he gets a therapy dog . . . who can talk! Benji Wendell Barnsworth is a small ten-year-old boy with a big personality. Born premature, Benji is sickly, accident-prone, and at the hospital so often he even has his own punch card. So when Benji wakes up one day from a particularly bad spell, his doctors take the radical step of suggesting he get a therapy dog. But when a massive crate arrives at Benji's house, out walks a two-hundred-pound Newfoundland who can talk! And boy, is he bossy. In this hilarious and heartwarming friendship story in the tradition of bestselling authors Gordon Korman and Carl Hiaasen, Elvis brings out the dog lover in the most surprising people and shows Benji that making new friends may not be as scary as he once thought. "

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ava Mills

    This book is about a kid named Benji he is in fourth grade. He was born with something that makes him faint so he has to go to the hospital a lot. One day he went to the hospital after fainting in school the docotor couldnt figuar out what caused this to happen. So it came down to two things for Benji either to get a huge helment or a service dog. Benji did not want the helment but his mom didnt like the idea of a dog she said no at first but finally softened up to the fact. Benji got a dog name This book is about a kid named Benji he is in fourth grade. He was born with something that makes him faint so he has to go to the hospital a lot. One day he went to the hospital after fainting in school the docotor couldnt figuar out what caused this to happen. So it came down to two things for Benji either to get a huge helment or a service dog. Benji did not want the helment but his mom didnt like the idea of a dog she said no at first but finally softened up to the fact. Benji got a dog named Elvis he could talk. He told Benji he was the presidents dog and that there was a mistake read the book to find out what happens next. I enjoye the book a lot. It is definetly one of my favorite book so I highly recomend it. There is a lot of ups and downs but it is a great book over all. I am the kind of person who gets board in a book very fast and never likes to finish one, but I couldnt set this book down.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Monique

    This was actually, really good... I realize I'm a little bit past the age of the intended target audience, but a well written, entertaining book is something for every age. I don't mind my MC being younger than me, so I enjoy many more books than I would if they were all my age and older. That being said, Elvis was an amazing character. His relationships with with he other characters were hilarious. The MC was also a fleshed out character, a 10 year old who had go deal with constant illness or be This was actually, really good... I realize I'm a little bit past the age of the intended target audience, but a well written, entertaining book is something for every age. I don't mind my MC being younger than me, so I enjoy many more books than I would if they were all my age and older. That being said, Elvis was an amazing character. His relationships with with he other characters were hilarious. The MC was also a fleshed out character, a 10 year old who had go deal with constant illness or being in the hospital and how he was able to make some friends with the help of his dog. There's also a second one! So let's see how that goes.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Melody Bremen

    This book is so cute. It's a fast and easy read (A little too fast. I wanted it to keep going!) that keeps you rooting for the hero. It's about a boy named Benji, who describes himself as being known for his "winning sense of humor." As he is funny. He has lots of medical issues so he gets a service dog who, well, speaks English. I hadn't read the description before reading the book, so the talking dog was a bit of a shock. The best part is the the dog, Elvis, is so proper. At one point he repri This book is so cute. It's a fast and easy read (A little too fast. I wanted it to keep going!) that keeps you rooting for the hero. It's about a boy named Benji, who describes himself as being known for his "winning sense of humor." As he is funny. He has lots of medical issues so he gets a service dog who, well, speaks English. I hadn't read the description before reading the book, so the talking dog was a bit of a shock. The best part is the the dog, Elvis, is so proper. At one point he reprimand Benji on his bad posture. Definitely a recommended read.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Laurel

    Message learned: Everyone needs a pack. Love love love this book! From the first chapter, the kids were enthralled. I didn't know anything going into it, but I then read the insert and found out the secret about Elvis. The kids were shocked when the secret was revealed. This was written in such a perfect tone. You really felt as though Benji was right there with you. Kudos to the author! The whole thing, even the bittersweet ending, was *chef's kiss* perfect. Message learned: Everyone needs a pack. Love love love this book! From the first chapter, the kids were enthralled. I didn't know anything going into it, but I then read the insert and found out the secret about Elvis. The kids were shocked when the secret was revealed. This was written in such a perfect tone. You really felt as though Benji was right there with you. Kudos to the author! The whole thing, even the bittersweet ending, was *chef's kiss* perfect.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kaz

    I fun romp in every sense of the word. This is a book I read for the Battle of the Books elementary school version (2020). It touches on various common children’s themes- friendship, bullying, and finding your (own) way, and adds in elements of compassion, medical issues, and overcoming obstacles.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Adams

    Great so far Just started this book it's great so far my daughter is really enjoying it. Thanks for recommending such a great book Great so far Just started this book it's great so far my daughter is really enjoying it. Thanks for recommending such a great book

  15. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Davis

    Similar themes as Wonder. Perfect for kids with service dogs. Very funny!

  16. 5 out of 5

    MM

    The book gives you a lot of life lessons and it shows frendship.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Isabella Bonifacio

    It was HILARIOUS! I loved it and I am super excited to read the next one.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Tony Perez and Valerie Johnson

    Very cute and sweet book! Funny adventures!!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sharon Buxton

    B+. fiction, children's fiction, upper elementary, humor, friendship, disabilities B+. fiction, children's fiction, upper elementary, humor, friendship, disabilities

  20. 4 out of 5

    Piper

    I loved this book, Benji and Elvis have a good relationship and would recommend to book groups specifically.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ann

    I read this book a long time ago. I can't remember exactly what happened, but I know that I liked this book. It used to be one of my favorite books when I was in 3rd grade. It was about a boy who had a sickness and needed a dog to help guide him. The dog wasn't friendly instead he was grumpy but a hilarious character in this book! By any chance, if you see this book, I really think that you should buy or borrow it straight away. This book had a very powerful influence on my usual ways of thinkin I read this book a long time ago. I can't remember exactly what happened, but I know that I liked this book. It used to be one of my favorite books when I was in 3rd grade. It was about a boy who had a sickness and needed a dog to help guide him. The dog wasn't friendly instead he was grumpy but a hilarious character in this book! By any chance, if you see this book, I really think that you should buy or borrow it straight away. This book had a very powerful influence on my usual ways of thinking.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Lisle Library Youth Services

    Benji gets a service dog who can talk... but he's the only one who can hear him. And the dog is kinda...stuffy. The interaction between the two is the heart of the book. The characters are believable and endearing. I really enjoyed this book. Sarah Benji gets a service dog who can talk... but he's the only one who can hear him. And the dog is kinda...stuffy. The interaction between the two is the heart of the book. The characters are believable and endearing. I really enjoyed this book. Sarah

  23. 5 out of 5

    Carol Royce Owen

    Benjamin Wendell Barnsworth is an extremely small ten year old boy who has been sickly since his premature birth. Prone to frequent fainting, accidents, allergies, asthma, and a target for bullies (especially Billy Thompson) he's been in the hospital so much his favorite nurse has given him a punch card and when he gets to 10 punches he's going to get a special surprise. Recently, though, Benji has had a particularly bad spell, much like a seizure, and his doctor has left him with two options - Benjamin Wendell Barnsworth is an extremely small ten year old boy who has been sickly since his premature birth. Prone to frequent fainting, accidents, allergies, asthma, and a target for bullies (especially Billy Thompson) he's been in the hospital so much his favorite nurse has given him a punch card and when he gets to 10 punches he's going to get a special surprise. Recently, though, Benji has had a particularly bad spell, much like a seizure, and his doctor has left him with two options - wear a hideous helmet that will signal the hospital when there's any unusual brain activity, or get a service dog. Enter Parker Elvis Pembroke IV. Parker Elvis Pembroke IV is an unusual service dog, trained for 2 years to save lives, help sick people, protect against kidnappers, find missing people and much more. But there's one big problem for the Barnsworth family - Parker Elvis Pembroke IV is a 200 pound Newfoundland about 4 times the size of Benji. While mom is on the phone trying to straighten out the mess Benji discovers something quite unusual and surprising about Parker Elvis Pembroke IV, whom he quickly nicknames Elvis - something that causes him to faint. Elvis can talk. Benji learns that Elvis was there by accident, that he was supposed to be delivered to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, that he has been trained to be the first dog for the president, and he was quite uptight and bossy. But when he tries to tell his mom all of this she's certain he's had another episode and he's rushed to the hospital, because only Benji can understand Elvis. All anyone else hears is barks and whines. On the very first day back to school Elvis helps Benji to see that it's time to seek out his own pack, and that he can't hide in the library away from his peers any longer. So despite encounters with bullies along the way, it's not long before Benji has made some unlikely friends who teach him not to let his circumstances dictate his choices in life and to believe in himself. The only thing that keeps me from giving this 5 stars is due to the unrealistic way the service dog is just dropped off and everyone is supposed to know how he is trained and what he can do without any training on their part. There are also a few typos (that always drives me crazy) and at least one time when it seemed that someone other than Benji understood Elvis (when Elvis wants to sneak them out of the cafeteria). I don't think these will hinder a student's enjoyment of the book, though. I think they'll really enjoy it.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Bluerose's Heart

    This is such a fun story. Benji is 10 years old, and tiny for his age. He's spent a great deal of his life in a hospital, and is prone to regular fainting spells. When he has a seizure, he is given the choice of wearing one UGLY helmet or get a service dog. Since he's already bullied, he finally talks his mother into a dog. Little did he know, he'd get a talking dog. My oldest son was extremely premature, like Benji, so I automatically warmed to this story. I sympathized with his mom all too well This is such a fun story. Benji is 10 years old, and tiny for his age. He's spent a great deal of his life in a hospital, and is prone to regular fainting spells. When he has a seizure, he is given the choice of wearing one UGLY helmet or get a service dog. Since he's already bullied, he finally talks his mother into a dog. Little did he know, he'd get a talking dog. My oldest son was extremely premature, like Benji, so I automatically warmed to this story. I sympathized with his mom all too well! I liked her! Benji pulled out the “pity” card a few times, and he gets his way, but she does remind him that she’s the mom, and that means she doesn’t *have* to negotiate. I found myself laughing at unexpected moments throughout the book. Out loud! The author of this book is a writer/producer for the TV show "Shake it Up", which I admit to watching a few times. This book has a fun, cute style, like that show. It’s really a perfect “win” for parents and children. There’s enough corniness and funny parts that I believe most children would love the story, but there’s enough (subtle) life lessons thrown in that I think most parents would be happy to hand it over to their children. I’m not the biggest fan of books with talking animals in them, but it worked in this case. The first time Elvis started talking, I admit I found it so corny, I didn’t think I’d end up liking the book anymore, but it quickly became hilarious. Another thing I adored about this book is the diversity! There are characters of different ethnicities throughout the story AND on the cover, and that gets major bonus points from me. As much as I enjoyed my time in this book, I do have to admit to being surprised at certain parts of the story, especially the ending. Some things weren’t left wrapped up as much as I’d like. I’m really hoping it means this will be a series! Overall, this is a fun book that's perfect for some end of summer reading! I enjoyed it! *I was provided a review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Donna Siebold

    A lovely story of a friendless boy,Benji, whose hospital visits total almost 100 (so many that his favorite nurse has given him a punch card - every ten visits he earns a surprise!), who faints when nervous, and has most recently been diagnosed with a seizure disorder. Faced with having to wear an unsightly helmet or get a companion dog, Benji pleads (despite a dog allergy) to be granted the dog. After an incident his mother blames on the helmet he gets the dog. And what a surprise this dog is - f A lovely story of a friendless boy,Benji, whose hospital visits total almost 100 (so many that his favorite nurse has given him a punch card - every ten visits he earns a surprise!), who faints when nervous, and has most recently been diagnosed with a seizure disorder. Faced with having to wear an unsightly helmet or get a companion dog, Benji pleads (despite a dog allergy) to be granted the dog. After an incident his mother blames on the helmet he gets the dog. And what a surprise this dog is - first of all he is massive. He is a black Newfoundland. Most surprising of all, though, is that the dog can speak! At least Benji hears the dog speak - others hear only whining or barking. The dog's official name is as impressive as his size, so Benji tells him he will call him Elvis. Although he comes to like the name Elvis is not pleased with this in the beginning. In fact, in the beginning little pleases Elvis because he is supposed to be gifted to the President of the United States - he is not supposed to be a companion dog to a little boy in Pennsylvania. They reach an agreement however, that Elvis will perform as a faithful companion - until the error is rectified. Due to the unnatural situation, however, they agree that Elvis will work in a more casual manner than he usually does. With Elvis'help Benji discovers the value of friends, rescues another "nerd" from a bullying student's attacks, and even learns a bit about why the bully acts as he does. At the end of the story Benji's proper speechless dog is delivered and Elvis is on his way to the White House. A dramatic chase ensues when Benji realizes he has no photos of Elvis. With the help of his friends Benji and his mother catch up to Elvis' convoy and the two have a heartfelt reunion and separation. The style of writing in this book is excellent. What could have been a maudlin or sappy story is just a clever heart-warming tale.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

    Elvis and the Underdogs by Jenny Lee Balzer + Bray, 2013 Fantasy 304 pages Recommended for grades 3-6 Benji is the smallest kid in his grade. But it's not just his small stature that pegs him as an extreme underdog. He also suffers from idiopathic epilepsi, which is to say that the seizures he has are due to an unknown origin. The danger of Benji having a seizure and possibly hitting his head without anyone around to help is a risk that his doctor wants to lessen. Her ideas: get a service dog that ca Elvis and the Underdogs by Jenny Lee Balzer + Bray, 2013 Fantasy 304 pages Recommended for grades 3-6 Benji is the smallest kid in his grade. But it's not just his small stature that pegs him as an extreme underdog. He also suffers from idiopathic epilepsi, which is to say that the seizures he has are due to an unknown origin. The danger of Benji having a seizure and possibly hitting his head without anyone around to help is a risk that his doctor wants to lessen. Her ideas: get a service dog that can sense the onset of the seizure, or wear a giant green padded helmet...everywhere. We can guess what Benji wants, but his all powerful mom is not too keen on the dog idea. Back at school it's a giant green helmet nightmare. Bully Billy Thompson has a run-in with Benji that ultimately seals the deal on Benji getting his service dog. Enter Elvis Pembroke IV, a giant Newfoundland that was trained to be the President's dog...or so he says. That's right, he says things, to Benji, who can hear words instead of barks from Elvis's mouth. Elvis takes himself very seriously and is highly disappointed to be appointed to Benji rather than the President. But Elvis has his honor, and he takes on the task at hand of protecting Benji. This story is full of new found friendships in unlikely places, where we learn that even the toughest and most put together people have their own struggles, and we have a heck of a lot of laughs along the way! I read an advanced copy, and I hope a slight issue of continuity on pages 185-186 is cleared up in the final printing. Elvis says something that only Benji can hear, but another boy, Alex responds as though he knew what Elvis said. I've got kids already begging for this book, they've seen me reading it for a couple of weeks, and I've told them just enough to hype them up.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Shannon

    Book Description: t’s tough being Benji Wendell Barnsworth. As if being born prematurely, fainting on a regular basis and missing school all the time because of illness wasn’t enough, Benji has now ended up in the hospital after having a major seizure at school. In Jenny Lee’s Elvis and the Underdogs, Benji is faced with an impossible choice: Wear a huge, hideous helmet to protect his fragile head from falls or convince his mom to let him have a dog that can sense seizures. However, getting a do Book Description: t’s tough being Benji Wendell Barnsworth. As if being born prematurely, fainting on a regular basis and missing school all the time because of illness wasn’t enough, Benji has now ended up in the hospital after having a major seizure at school. In Jenny Lee’s Elvis and the Underdogs, Benji is faced with an impossible choice: Wear a huge, hideous helmet to protect his fragile head from falls or convince his mom to let him have a dog that can sense seizures. However, getting a dog doesn’t turn out exactly as Benji imagined. The first clue that Elvis is not an ordinary dog is his size. He’s big—no, not just big, but HUGE! The second, and more obvious, clue, is that Elvis introduces himself to Benji as Parker Elvis Pembroke IV, the dog trained to assist the president of the United States. As in, actually introduces himself with words that Benji can understand, even though no one else seems to be able to. Unfortunately, Elvis decides that until the mistake is corrected and he is sent to help the president, he is going to use his voice to boss Benji around. This, however, begins to lead to some unintended consequences and new experiences. Elvis manages, through stubbornness and determination, to break through the defenses of some surprising people and teach Benji that talking to new people and making friends may not be as awful as he thought. Elvis and the Underdogs explores the hidden side of people, making the reader look at bullies, athletes and outcasts in an entirely new way. Convincingly told in Benji’s appealing voice and filled with strong, empathetic and fun characters, this heart-warming story will be enjoyed by readers trying to figure out who they really are, and where they fit in the world.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Handford

    Fourth-grade Benji suffers from idiopathic epilepsy, and has spent more than 300 days in the hospital during his young life, so much that he has earned a punch-card created by one of the nurses. Benji carries around a titanium lug nut from his rocket scientist father as an example of “how small things can sometimes play a big part in huge endeavors." When Benji is bullied at school and ends up in the hospital again after a seizure, the doctor gives him the choice of wearing a hideous-looking pro Fourth-grade Benji suffers from idiopathic epilepsy, and has spent more than 300 days in the hospital during his young life, so much that he has earned a punch-card created by one of the nurses. Benji carries around a titanium lug nut from his rocket scientist father as an example of “how small things can sometimes play a big part in huge endeavors." When Benji is bullied at school and ends up in the hospital again after a seizure, the doctor gives him the choice of wearing a hideous-looking protective helmet, or getting a therapy dog who can respond to Benji when he has a seizure. Enter Elvis, an enormous Newfoundland dog. The surprise is that Elvis and Benji can talk to each other. As it turns out, Elvis arrived at Benji’s house in error. He was actually on his way to the White House to be the president's dog. Benji and Elvis disagree on many things, especially when Elvis urges Benji to invite a new boy from school to sit with them for lunch. Benji knows what it’s like to be bullied, and should invite Alex Chang Cohen over, but knows it will be social suicide. Befriending Alex will bring on more bullying. Long story short, Elvis invites him over and a food fight ensues, but so does a new friendship with Alex and Daisy, the star athlete of the school. The three kids and Elvis take on the bully, searching for Benji’s lost titanium lug nut. Benji’s mother, a loud, big-haired, crazy scrapbooker, worries endlessly about Benji, so much she often parks her car in front of the school, just in case her son needs her. She’s hard not to love. This book is heartwarming, as the reader even gains sympathy for the bully, who has his own issues to deal with, including a prosthetic foot! Funny, fast-paced, and earnest, I recommend this book for 3rd to 6th graders.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Thorey Ellis

    If you have ever felt like you don't fit it, this book is a playful novel is a great reminder that what makes us different is what makes us special. The characters discover that there is more to each of them the what first thought and that friendship is more about accepting each other than be like each other. A good read aloud for any class and a great choice for independent reading. If you have ever felt like you don't fit it, this book is a playful novel is a great reminder that what makes us different is what makes us special. The characters discover that there is more to each of them the what first thought and that friendship is more about accepting each other than be like each other. A good read aloud for any class and a great choice for independent reading.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Georgene

    Benji is a 10-year-old boy who was born prematurely and was sick a lot as a baby. He still has lots of allergies and he faints quite often. One day he has a seizure and ends up in the hospital. His doctor wants him to wear a padded helmet to protect his head in case he has more seizures, but since Benji is already harassed by a bully, he refuses to wear the helmet. His other option is to get a therapy dog. Benji would much rather try the therapy dog, although his mother is not that enthused abou Benji is a 10-year-old boy who was born prematurely and was sick a lot as a baby. He still has lots of allergies and he faints quite often. One day he has a seizure and ends up in the hospital. His doctor wants him to wear a padded helmet to protect his head in case he has more seizures, but since Benji is already harassed by a bully, he refuses to wear the helmet. His other option is to get a therapy dog. Benji would much rather try the therapy dog, although his mother is not that enthused about having a dog in the house. When Benji's dog arrives, he turns out to be a 200 lb. Newfoundland. His name is Parker Elvis Pembroke IV and he talks. Yes, Elvis is a talking dog. But only Benji can hear him and converse with him. Elvis claims that he was really meant to be the President's dog but there was some kind of mix-up. What follows are some wacky adventures for Benji and Elvis and some new-found friends. This was a cute story that got bogged down a bit with long explanatory conversations between Benji and Elvis. Otherwise, middle grade readers will enjoy this Virginia Readers' Choice title.

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