A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that there's not much to worry about in Elvis and the Underdogs: Secrets, Secret Service, and Room Service, the sequel to Elvis and the Underdogs. It reunites sickly 10-year-old Benji and his onetime service dog, 200-pound Newfoundland Elvis (now living at the White House) for further adventures. As with Book 1, it's a funny, fanciful tale that delivers a few understated life lessons, as Benji and new friends Alexander and Taisy put their unique talents (including wheedling and conniving) to work to help one another. Real life never interferes with imagination and a good story: After all, the hero is a huge talking dog who sends messages in Morse code via YouTube. Many plot developments rely on happy coincidence, convenient connections, and maybe even angelic forces, but most young readers will be having too much fun to quibble. They also may discover a sudden obsession with room service.
What's the story?
It's been more than three months since 200-pound Newfie Elvis has gone off to be the president's dog at the White House, and 10-year-old Benji is still miserable, despite the best efforts of new friends Alexander and Taisy. His new service dog, Ripley, performs his duties perfectly -- but he's not Elvis. Then the kids spot a video on YouTube. In the foreground, the president is giving a speech. In the background, Elvis is doing this weird thumping thing with his tail. It's a message to Benji in Morse code! Soon the kids are figuring out how to get their parents to take them to Washington, D.C., so they can connect with Elvis and come to the rescue. Shenanigans involving hotels, archery contests, baked goods, and international diplomacy ensue.
Is it any good?
As with Book 1, ELVIS AND THE UNDERDOGS: SECRETS, SECRET SERVICE, AND ROOM SERVICE is lighthearted, fanciful, and a bit over the top. It's also poignant and heartfelt as Benji pines for Elvis, and each of the kids grapples with his or her own challenges: Taisy worries about the next sports contest she's expected to ace, "human computer" Alexander explains why he thinks it's unethical for him to enter a spelling bee, and sickly Benji hopes the next adventure doesn't land him in the emergency room -- again.
Author Jenny Lee, a sitcom writer and producer (of Disney series Shake It Up), effectively delivers the tale in Benji's voice, and Kelly Light's fun illustrations will entertain young readers, even reluctant ones. Parents looking for books with ethnically diverse characters also may appreciate that Alexander is Korean-Jewish while Taisy's parents, both star athletes, are African-American and Swedish.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why stories about talking animals -- and the people they meet -- are so popular. What others do you know? Are they always funny or cute, or can they be scary?
Have you ever been to Washington, D.C.? What did you do when you were there? Do you think you'd like to visit the White House?
Do you know any kids who have service dogs? How do the dogs help the kids?
- Author: Jenny Lee
- Illustrator: Kelly Light
- Genre: Friendship
- Topics: Adventures, Cats, Dogs, and Mice, Friendship, History, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Balzer + Bray
- Publication date: May 27, 2014
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 352
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.