Harry & Hopper by Margaret Wild

harry-and-hopperLynn:  Years ago I made a rule about completely avoiding books in which the animals die.  As a life-long pet owner and animal lover, dealing with the real thing is more than enough for me.  I have NO interest in reading about it, thank you very much.  I get that many people think exploring such a topic is healthy but I prefer to avoid such books whenever possible!  So the fact that I am recommending Harry & Hopper (Feiwel 2011) should send an extra loud message.

When Hopper came to live with Harry as a puppy “he was as jumpy as a grasshopper.”  Harry and Hopper did everything together all day and snuggled up each night.  Boy and dog  – inseparable.  Until the awful day when Harry comes home from school and his father has to tell him Hopper has died in an accident.  Harry can’t sleep in his bed without Hopper and he can’t find the words to tell his friends.  Then in the night, Hopper appears in the dark.  They play and cuddle and every night Hopper returns although each night he seems fainter, not as warm or real.  Eventually Harry is able to let Hopper go and finally say goodbye.

There are not many subjects more difficult to talk about with children and Margaret Wild’s deft and understated story goes right to the heart.  Even writing this review has made me tear up but there is a wonderful reassurance and understanding here as well as a clear acknowledgment of the deeply felt sadness and pain at such a loss.

I adore Freya Blackwood’s illustrations that capture the wiggly vibrancy of dog and boy and beautifully convey the message that eventually we are able to say good-bye.  OK – just this once I’m breaking my rule.

Cindy: I never quite understood the depth of grief that people felt for their pets until the year I relented and we got a puppy for our daughters. Ten months later he escaped the house while we were out, and we found him on the side of the road. How could we have gotten so attached after only ten months? The loss was overwhelming and the task of breaking the news to our young daughters was terribly difficult.  I now have a taste of what owners feel when they lose a pet after many years together. Harry & Hopper is a great book for all the reasons Lynn lists. I really like the magical realism element and I would be remiss if I did not rave a little more about the illustrations. The mixed media portrayal of boy and dog is fabulous and the varying perspectives, including overhead shots, and use of white space is masterful and fits what is on each page. When the father is breaking the bad news, we see just the backs of dad and Harry…it would be too heartbreaking to see their faces and it reinforces what a private moment this is between father and child. The entire book is like this. The illustrations fit Wild’s text so well that I was bummed to realize that the book would not be eligible for the Caldecott Medal. The good news, though, is that I learned Harry & Hopper won the 2010 Kate Greenaway Medal for distinguished illustration, and that’s something to smile about.

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

3 Comments on "Harry & Hopper by Margaret Wild"

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  1. I had this in my hand today at McLean & Eakin in Petoskey but I just could not deal with the death of a dog. I am going to be lost without my Xena when she goes. She is the best friend that I have ever had. But for the children that I work with every day I had best go back and buy it. Thanks again for another stellar review.

  2. Yes, Margie. You need to buy this. It should be in every collection for young children. Truly. It will comfort you, too. Buy two.

  3. aprincesschanel@live.com' chanel says:

    im only eleven but the first time i read this book was in 2009 i was turning 10 in a few months . One day i had nothing to read so picked up a book that had a olive colour and a imprint of a dog and a boy i looked at it closely i found that it looked quit interesting when i opend the book i could all ready feel the story like i had a read it a thousnd times i read the first pag it was telling a story of a boy named harry and a boy named hopper they were the best of freinds one day harry was comeing from school but when he opend the gate there was no hopper jumping of exitment he saw his dad crying on the door step if i were harry i would wonder over a thousnd things like did so one die did my dad lose his job or house but it was worse harry had lost his best freind in te world we only find one porson to trust and to keep but sometimes that friend is gone gone forever its sad to say but let me finish the story harry walked inside his dad said harry i need to tell you something after the father said that hopper had car axadent harry ran inside a started to cry that night harry did not wont to sleep in his room but harry woke up and could here hopper crying so he went outside and looked and there was hopper lying there harry grabed him and held him close he took him to the coach with him hopper had felt warm as fire he felt alive the next morning harry woke up and saw nothing he went to school without talking to his mates when he came home he was still very upset that night again he slept on the couch he knew he would see and feel and smell hopper again that night he woke up and hererd crying again he went out side and sore hopper this time he felt colder but harry took him to bed the next night harry slept in his room he woke up once more an d herd hopper crying he felt as cold as ice he took him to bed and said i will aways love you hopper i will never forget you but its time to say good bye goodbye was the last time harry felt and saw hopper but harry gave his word to never forget hopper and to aways love him when i finshed reading this book i had tears driping slowely i had never felt or read this book but i found it the best book in the world im eleven and i still remeber it ive searched libarys to book stores till i found it in bakisnmarg this book rememinded me how upset i was when i lost my cat isabela i could not eat or sleep or talk but i was crying for weeks and weeks i love this book because harry aways never wanted to let go of hopper and i felt the same with isabella i had grown her up and she was still a few month old but isabella had lots og grate things about her like she had a little baby pat her for the first time he had pated a cat i had many adventures with her i only found he in footscrat in a bag in a box but i saved he and her brothers and sisters i will aways love isabella and i will aways love harry & hopper

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