Editor's note: "Harvey Holds His Own" is a finalist in the Children's Book category of the 2021 High Plains Book Awards.
Harvey is a West Highland terrier without any anthropomorphizing. Yet when he returns to Brayside Retirement Villa in this sequel to award-winning “Harvey Comes Home,” Harvey knits his community just like the human protagonists who love him do. This middle-grade book treats its readers affectionately, as does good old-fashioned British literature: earnestly yet appreciatively of graceful choices.
Harvey’s owner, Maggie, begins to volunteer at Brayside for a school service project. She is concerned that the boy, Austin, who in the prior volume kept a lost Harvey unnecessarily, is a scary presence there. Maggie grows from the commitments to community that she recognizes in the staff, then in the residents, and then in herself.
Author Nelson transcribes her characters’ thoughts thoughtfully and respectfully. Her voice is simple, direct, mild, yet observant. Nelson’s choices of tone, style and content ring proudly G-rated Canadian in their respect for character and motivations, as when Maggie realizes the truth of what’s bothering her: “Maybe she’s outgrowing [her friends], and not the other way around.”
Occasionally Nelson’s tone wavers. In an artist’s choice, she flips among Harvey, Maggie and new buddy Austin as third-person narrators in present, past, and present perfect tenses; Austin seems a bit reflective for a pre-teen; and Maggie meets an utterly apt mentor elder; but Nelson’s situations, plot and focus ring true, which young readers appreciate.
I appreciate stories with no evildoers (Nelson even justifies a raccoon’s aggression), and this is one. “Harvey Holds His Own” is a finalist in the Children’s Book category of the 2021 High Plains Book Awards.
Jon Kohn taught in Crow Agency and Billings.