September 16, 2022

Harvey Takes the Lead: Guest review

This review was prepared by Gr. 9 student Bronte L.
Written by Colleen Nelson
Illustrated by Tara Anderson
Pajama Press
288 pp.
Ages 8-12
May 2022

In Colleen Nelson’s book, Harvey Takes the Lead, Maggie and her friend Austin and their adventurous dogs Harvey and Bertie (respectively) volunteer at Brayside Retirement home. But there is much worry at the home with its new management, rules, and the possibility of Harvey’s dismissal as a comfort dog. For one couple, Mr. and Mrs. Kowalski, there is even more anxiety as Mrs. Kowalski is sick in hospital and her husband is anxious for her return, especially with the upcoming Valentine's Day dance. Ever the good listener, Austin does his very best to help the senior cope by listening to accounts of how the couple met in their youth.

Meanwhile, Maggie and Austin have troubles of their own, mostly dealing with friends and school. Maggie is dealing with not getting the part she wanted in her school play and instead getting the role of the understudy to Ndidi, a girl who Maggie doesn't think deserves the lead. Austin, on the other hand, is too embarrassed to tell his best friend that he can't afford to go on a school trip. And Harvey? He's determined to drive out the rodent nest at Brayside, even if it means breaking a few rules.

Harvey Takes the Lead by Colleen Nelson is a good fit for readers in grades 3-6, but can certainly be enjoyed by people of all ages. It's a heartwarming story about balancing school, family and friends, and giving second chances. The short chapters alternate between perspectives of Maggie, Austin, and Harvey, giving you a look at each of their unique  experiences. Every single character has a vibrant personality and backstory, including Harvey and Bertie, the beloved canines!

Out of 10, I would give Harvey Takes the Lead a 9. If you think retirement homes are dull, you certainly have not heard about Brayside! I absolutely loved the spunk and courage of the seniors, and Maggie and Austin were such relatable and likeable characters. It is far from the genres I usually read, but I enjoyed it a whole lot more than I thought I would! The story was fast paced, and the short chapters made it a quick and enjoyable read. After finishing this book, you’ll want nothing more than to have a chat with the Brayside residents over coffee and Mrs. O’Brian’s blueberry muffins! 
~ Written by Bronte L.
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Harvey Takes the Lead (2022)

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