________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 1 . . . . September 8, 2017


Hey, Boy.

Benjamin Strouse. Illustrated by Jennifer Phelan.
New York, NY: Margaret K. McElderry Books (Distributed in Canada by Simon & Schuster), 2017.
40 pp., hardcover, $21.99.
ISBN 978-1-4814-7101-5.

Subject Headings:
Dogs-Juvenile fiction.
Human-animal relationships-Juvenile fiction.

Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 4-7.

Review by Ellen Heaney.

*** /4


Boy wants dog. Boy finds dog that can't be his. Dog is adopted from the animal shelter by someone else, and boy can only visit dog's new home intermittently. But the dream of ownership stays strong.

      An unusual variant of the 'hoping for a pet' trope, Hey, Boy tells of a child longing to grow bigger so that he can finally have a dog of his own to look after. Play with a friendly stray results in the boy's sustaining a broken arm, and so it's off to the shelter for this likeable-looking mutt. The boy thinks of going to see him there, but dog has been adopted. Then the kind new owners sends a letter inviting the boy to visit.

[The boy and the dog] played and played like they had when they first met, until they were both exhausted and needed to rest.

"When I finish growing up," the boy told the dog, "we'll live on a farm."

"And you can run around every day chasing sheep."

"I made my own lunch today, so it won't be much longer."

      The years are clearly passing, and the boy grows to young adulthood. Mature concerns have taken over much of life, but the dog, who is growing older too, is never far from the central character's thoughts.

      When a letter arrives from the owners saying that they now feel past being able to care for the dog, the young man speeds away in his little car.

When he arrived, he felt nervous. Even afraid.

What if he doesn't recognize me? Will he wag his tail?
What if he barks?

'Hey, Boy!'

His friend moved very slowly now. He couldn't see very well. but of course, the dog was happy. And the boy was overjoyed.

      Author Benjamin Strouse is an American producer and composer, and this spare text marks his picturebook debut. The Canadian connection comes in the artwork of Toronto illustrator Jennifer Phelan. It is rendered with digitally-colored pen-and-ink drawings in a muted palette. Human and animal figures stand out on a white ground, and just a few lines convey a lot of feeling. The dogs behind the cage bars at the shelter near the start of the book and the disembodied hands throwing mortarboards into the air marking the boy's graduation are especially evocative. And it is surprising how the longed-for dog, sometimes little more than a blob with four legs and bright eyes, has so much life.

      There's a little bit of Love You Forever here, with the aging of a small boy and a lively puppy into young man and a grizzled and failing adult dog who maintain a strong bond with each other over years. A book for larger primary collections.


Ellen Heaney is a retired children's librarian living in Coquitlam, BC.

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