Harvey Comes Home Reviews

School Library Journal ★ Starred Review

Cover: Harvey Comes Home Author: Colleen Nelson Illustrator: Tara Anderson Publisher: Pajama Press

“Harvey’s strong connection to Mr. Pickering sets up an emotional conclusion—expect a few tears—in which lives converge and Harvey is reunited with Maggie, his 12-year-old owner. Alternating among the perspectives of Harvey, Austin, and Maggie, this gently paced, character-driven narrative captivates on every level, transforming a ‘lost dog’ story into a deeper reading experience. Present-day and historical time lines (with a few grim moments) are seamlessly interwoven and keep readers invested. Back matter reveals that the tale was inspired by Nelson’s (Finding Hope) grandfather, accounting for the book’s authentic, intimate feel. VERDICT Nelson’s first middle grade novel is heartwarming and inspirational; a first purchase.”
—Marybeth Kozikowski, Sachem Public Library, Holbrook, NY

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Kirkus Reviews

“Affecting, riveting, and evocative, this character-driven tale within a tale, with narrative perspective alternating among Harvey, Austin, and Maggie, believably reveals the best and sometimes the worst of human nature. The cast defaults to white. Much more than a lost-dog story.”

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“Harvey, a Westie, loves his young owner Maggie, but while she’s away on a family vacation, Harvey’s sitter doesn’t latch the gate properly. The little white pup escapes and wanders into new parts of the city. Hungry, thirsty, and dirty, he finally rests behind a planter at Brayside Retirement Villa, where he is discovered by Austin. Austin has been working off a detention by assisting his grandfather with custodial work at Brayside. The residents, employees, and Austin fall in love with Harvey. One crotchety resident, Walter Pickering, even begins reminiscing about his 1930s childhood and a beloved dog of his own; Austin and Harvey are hooked (as are readers). What begins as a story of a dog and two kids evolves into a historical look at Mr. Pickering’s much simpler, yet complicated, life. Throughout, alternating third-person chapters from Maggie, Harvey, and Austin give readers a rounded view of each prominent character. The title clues readers into the final outcome, but it’s the middle that moves the plot along. Dog lovers will drool over this multi-generational story.”
— J. B. Petty

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ILA Literacy Daily, “Compassion, Empathy, and Understanding”

“Although it might not be a part of the Common Core State Standards or easy to measure, teaching our students compassion, empathy, and understanding is an important part of the curriculum. Following are some recently published books that are good choices for reading aloud to foster discussion as well as for independent reading….

The chapters alternate from the perspectives of Austin, Harvey, and Maggie, an effective device that allows readers to develop an understanding of the emotions and behaviors of the characters.”

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CM Magazine

“Assuming that Harvey Comes Home is a simple novel about a lost dog does not give this story enough credit. Assuming that it is a novel about a family that searches for their missing dog isn’t enough either because the author has given equal weight to Harvey’s journey and to a second story, one that is a touch more emotionally captivating, with Harvey becoming a visitor in a nursing home and an important friend to the people who live and work there….Harvey Comes Home is a gentle story about a slow build to friendship between generations that would be of interest to all readers and a wonderful choice for reading aloud. Harvey Comes Home is about so much more than a lost dog, and I can see this book being one that any reader would treasure. Highly Recommended.
—Penny McGill

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Youth Services Book Review

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

What did you like about the book? While looking at the cover and the title of this book you might think this is a story about a lost dog that makes its way home — but that would be a mistake because this story is so much more than that. As a matter of fact, it is actually a story within a story….

This story flips from the present, Maggie searching for Harvey and Austin trying to keep up the ruse, and the stories of Mr. Pickering that take place in the 1930’s during some particularly challenging times. Austin becomes engrossed in these stories of life on the prairie and all the hardships and challenges the families fought against. I found it was the stories provided by Mr. Pickering that kept me turning the pages of this book. I really wanted to know what happened to him, his family, and his special friend that he rescued from the brink of death.

Anything you didn’t like about it? Nothing

To whom would you recommend this book? Perfect for children between the ages of eight and twelve. There are some topics of abuse, neglect, and a dead body so these concepts might be a little scary for younger children….

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our ‘to read’ piles? Yes”
Kristin Guay, former youth librarian

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Winnipeg Free Press

“Winnipeg’s Colleen Nelson has written a new book that will especially resonate with pet lovers….Mid-grade readers will enjoy this story of love, loyalty and endurance, in which Tara Anderson shows her versatility by supplying charming black-and-white illustrations.”

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CanLit for LittleCanadians

“A scent, a touch, a colour, a voice. They can draw memories. And memories can take you places. They can take you away from the present and towards something else. They can take you to a past that needs to be remembered or give direction to follow forward. And they can take you home in more ways than one….

Told in alternating chapters from the perspectives of Harvey, Maggie and Austin, Harvey Comes Home is not just a story about a dog lost and found. It’s a story about the bonds between human and dog. These are the bonds that tie us in love and gratitude, responsibility and empathy. They are the ones that give us our humanity via our benevolence for others. But Harvey Comes Home is also about the power of memory to bring us home. I will admit that Colleen Nelson’s story brought me to tears time and time again, as an aging Mr. Pickering grabs at his memories, as Bertie survives against all odds, and as Harvey and General are loved and love. Colleen Nelson always tells a good story (see her YA titles SadiaBlood BrothersFinding Hope, and The Fall for a great sampling) but, in her first middle-grade novel, she is able to grab the reader’s heartstrings while blending a dog story with an intergenerational relationship and embedding profound reflections on the Depression and the Dust Bowl. It’s a complete package as Harvey’s, Maggie’s and Austin’s stories converge, integrated with heart and important messages about connecting with others and forgiveness for mistakes made when scared, hurt or alone.

Harvey Comes Home will make dog-lovers hug their animals and children ask their grandparents to share their stories from their own childhoods, bringing all a little closer and giving life to new memories for all.”

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Toronto.com, “Good books for older children and teenagers”

Harvey Comes Home is an entertaining novel aimed at middle-grade readers (ages 8-12)….Not only will the reader enjoy learning about Harvey’s adventures and whether he will get back to his family, but also about the dust storms, droughts, poverty and difficult lives of those who lived on the prairies during the 1930s. Readers will also learn about how dogs greatly enrich our lives, including the special work done by therapy dogs, and how people often aren’t as they appear. Excellent book for middle-grade readers!”
—Glenn Perrett

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Author Sheryl McFarlane

“I have just finished the most wonderful middle grade novel, Harvey Comes Home by Colleen Nelson, illustrated by Tara Anderson and published by Pajama Press.

Kids will absolutely love this novel about a little West Highland Terrier who escapes when left in the care of a dog sitter….Told in alternating chapters in the voices of Harvey, Maggie and Austin, Nelson paints a moving picture of the bond between dogs and people, especially the bond between Mr. Pickering and his childhood dog, General. The power of Harvey Comes Home lies in Nelson’s skilled storytelling. Fully drawn characters, including the curious little Westie, are absolutely believable. Her ability to bring history to life for any aged reader makes this book a must read. Delightful illustrations by Tara Anderson add a touch of whimsy to an already 5-star book.”

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