Elvis and the Underdogs by Lee
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.