What a fun story FENWAY AND HATTIE is! I knew right away it would be the perfect book for my 9-year-old daughter who absolutely LOVES dogs. She ended up reading the book in four days, then insisted I read the book so we could talk about it. Since the story is written through the dog, Fenway's, perspective, it brings to life the imagination of the reader. Now, my daughter cannot help but stop and wonder how her dog, Charles, views the world. Fenway called Hattie's mother Food Lady. My daughter said our dog, Charles, calls me Lap Lady. This is a great book for any child and elementary classroom.
From looking at the cover, I thought FENWAY AND HATTIE would be clever, I thought it would be cute, I thought it would be funny...and it's all of those things...but it's more. Much more.
It's a closely observed commentary (observed by a hilarious Jack Russell terrier, mind you) on human relationships and the struggles of a girl to grow and change, while staying grounded within her child self.
No, seriously! I mean it! I cannot fathom how Victoria Coe pulls this off.
The deep POV of our narrator, the dog Fenway, is insightful and utterly seamless from beginning to end. And what an earnest, bright (though often clueless), and likeable dog Fenway is! He's on the job 100% of the time, protecting his humans and doing what's right...or what he thinks is right, which unfortunately is not the same thing most of the time. His owner, Hattie, is not the only one who needs to grow and change in this story. Fenway does, too.
The complex voice of Fenway as narrator is extraordinary. I alternated between laughing out loud, paragraph after paragraph, and suddenly feeling a little stab in my heart as the well-meaning terrier's feelings are hurt again and again by things he simply is not equipped to understand. Take this bit, for example, when he thinks he's been rejected by Hattie:
"I drop down into the grass and lick my paw, like that's the part of me that hurts."
There is much rich emotional and perspective-taking material here to mine for parents and teachers who read this with children. The kids themselves won't even notice the themes they are absorbing as they tear through this delicious doggy treat of a book on their own.
But I'm taking the time here and now to notice, and to bow deeply to Victoria Coe. Well done.
This book could not be more adorable or engaging. We get to see the world through the eyes of Fenway, the super excitable Jack Russell Terrier, and he focuses on the important things: avoiding the Wicked Floor that is too slippery for him to walk on, making sure Food Lady and Fetch Man know he's got everything under control, and, most of all, keeping Hattie, his beloved short human, safe from marauding squirrels. Readers will be so ready to join Fenway for another adventure as soon as possible.
As a pet owner (or parent to a fur child, if you will), there’s a small amount of time each day that I spend pondering my cat. I wonder what goes on in her little head — what’s that internal narrative as I pet her or put down her food dish. When she suddenly decides she wants to be petted or curls up next to me, what’s she thinking? I know I’m not alone in wishing I could get inside her mind. If only I could peek in on her furry little thoughts.
Okay, okay, my musing is actually leading somewhere! Victoria J. Coe‘s debut middle grade novel, Fenway and Hattie, does exactly what I wish I could do, except for a spirited Jack Russell terrier named Fenway (instead of my cat). Fenway is facing some big changes in his furry little life, all of which Coe captures through Fenway’s distinct POV. Yep, all of this book is written as if we are in Fenway’s mind. An impressive feat, mind you –Jack Russell terriers are quite excitable!
Along with his family — ahem, the Food Lady, Fetch Man, and his short human, Hattie — Fenway makes a move from the big city to the suburbs. Of course, Fenway never explicitly states that he moves. The reader will intuit the real actions of the story through the lens of Fenway. For many young readers, this may be one of the first times they’re reading a book where they have to do some of the legwork. The thing is, they’ll have a leg up on Fenway most of the time, and this advantage only adds to the fun of reading this book. At times, it’s heartbreaking experiencing the gap between how Fenway understands what’s going on, and we readers, as humans, can comprehend of the situation. Whether it’s the impending move that takes Fenway by surprise, Hattie’s friendship with the girl next door, or the discovery of a game humans play with a baseball that is not (oh the horrors!) fetch, we’re limited to Fenway’s perspective. Fenway fears he’s losing Hattie — as the dogs in the Dog Park next door (i.e. his neighbors) have warned will happen — and my heart ached for him as he dealt with this prospect.
From my experience as a children’s librarian, I see this book really connecting with a lot of kids. It sure connected with me. And hey, my cat even sort of liked it. It’s hard to tell. If only I could peek into her brain . . .
My twins had the great luck to hear this book read at school as it was being published, and loved it! We are now ordering a copy for home, since their older sister wants to read it for herself after hearing so much about it. We recently got a dog, so the view inside a dog's head was particularly exciting for my boys.
My son says: The author fit in a lot of story for a book that size! It was funny, and it gave a good dog's perspective of how squirrels are evil. The lady owner was Food-Lady, and the man was Fetch-Man. The daughter was Little Human. I hope the second book is even bigger and better!
My other son says: Its plot was funny and good. It was sad sometimes (telling you why would be spoiling!).
Told from the family dog’s perspective, Fenway and Hattie is adventurous and fun, but what sticks with me the most are the moments of anxiety and sadness Fenway experiences as the family moves from the big city to the suburbs. This book is perfect for the elementary classroom for lessons on conflict, description, characterization, and of course, point of view. On her website, the author provides a complete classroom guide for G3-5 which includes information on canine behavior, chapter questions, lessons on characterization, point of view, and additional activities in alignment with common core standards. I highly recommend Fenway and Hattie for pleasure reading as well as classroom use.