A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Elvis and the Underdogs is more a sweet, funny, heartfelt tale than an educational tome. But academic achievers are presented in a positive fashion, and readers will learn a bit about various medical conditions, the training of service dogs, and other interesting information.
Positive messages about family love, friendship, and empathy, as well as finding your own pack and the life-changing benefits of doing so.
Positive Role Models
Benji is notable for making the best of a bad situation and not letting his disabilities ruin his life, an issue that comes up with other characters as well. Snarky, loyal, wise Elvis is both devoted dog and wise counselor. Resourceful Taisy and brilliant, geeky Alexander are good friends with excellent problem-solving skills. The adult characters, including the parents and hospital personnel, are all a bit comically flawed, but unswerving in their concern for the kids.
Violence & Scariness
The school bully makes life miserable for Benji, who lives in fear of having his head stuffed in a toilet and other forms of assault.
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Products & Purchases
Lots of products mentioned by name, mostly as incidental scene setting, e.g. Vitamin Water, Magic Marker, Kleenex.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Elvis and the Underdogs is a great story about Benji, a sickly, friendless 10-year-old, acquiring both friends and adventures thanks to a 200-pound Newfoundland named Elvis, who's supposed to be the presidential dog but mistakenly ends up as Benji's service dog. It includes scary moments, from run-ins with school bullies to near-death due to a severe allergic reaction, and features occasional references to butts, farts, and dog pee and poop. Kids -- especially those with handicaps or chronic health issues -- will appreciate Benji's tribulations and triumphs.
Is It Any Good?
Warm and lighthearted, this tale is insightful in its portrayal of tween kids coping with real-life challenges, from parental pressure to dodging the school bully (who has a surprise or two himself). There are lots of appealing characters, from Benji's new friends Taisy and Alexander to the various adults in their lives, and they all learn a few things thanks to the influence of Elvis.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.