Bound To Stay Bound

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School Library Journal - 05/01/2014 Gr 3–6—It has been months since Benji Barnsworth watched the Secret Service drive away with Elvis, the 200-pound Newfoundland therapy dog originally intended for the president, but who was delivered to Benji by mistake. Ripley, his new therapy dog, is fine, but he doesn't talk. Benji misses Elvis, so he and friends Taisy and Alexander keep tabs on Elvis online. Benji notices that Elvis looks a bit strange during one presidential speech, and he realizes that Elvis is sending a coded message with his tail—he needs help. The group of friends must get to Washington, DC, and rescue Elvis. It's easy enough to suspend disbelief and embrace a talking dog. The idea of two erroneously-delivered therapy dogs is a stretch, but when one recipient is the President of the United States, credulity strains. Benji's winning voice and his madcap antics charmed in the first installment, but the sequel doesn't hold up as well and feels overly long. While it is unlikely that many middle-grade readers will be familiar with White House protocol and security measures, some may have a hard time buying the ease with which Benji and his pals not only get to DC, but gain access to the White House. The narrator is a sweet and earnest character, if a bit self-aware. The adults are little more than clueless props, while the action is over-the-top slapstick.—Brenda Kahn, Tenakill Middle School, Closter, NJ - Copyright 2014 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.

Booklist - 06/01/2014 The buoyancy and belly laughs of Elvis and the Underdogs (2013) continue, as Benji and best buddies Alexander and Taisy contrive a trip to D.C. for a reunion with Elvis, a 200-pound talking (to Benji) Newfoundland currently living in the White House as First Dog. Once again Lee presents a diverse and vivid cast headlined by a physically frail motormouth and replete with characters who are capable of keeping up with him—led by his mother, a legendary baker who, as Benji notes with massive understatement, “can be a little melodramatic.” Ultimately, her delectable sweets earn an invitation to the White House kitchens, capped by a visit from the president himself. Larger-than-life emotions and rapid banter kick up an already headlong plot featuring a midnight rendezvous, a desperate scheme to prevent Elvis from being given to the prime minister of Japan, a wildly messy kitchen catastrophe, and a heartwarming, if highly improbable, closing twist. The author goes a little heavy on comforting slogans and life advice, but this rich, funny tale bears up easily under the load. Illustrations not seen. - Copyright 2014 Booklist.

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