Book Review – Toby by Hazel Mitchell


Hazel Mitchell
Age Range: 4 – 6 years
Grade Level: Preschool – 1
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: Candlewick (September 13, 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0763680931
ISBN-13: 978-0763680930

BOOK BLURB – When a young boy and his father move from one house to another, they decide to adopt a dog from the local rescue shelter. But their chosen dog, Toby, is having a tough time adjusting to his new life outside the shelter—howling all night, hiding fearfully from his new humans, forgetting where to go to the bathroom, and chasing a ball through the flower bed.

The boy has promised to train his new companion, and he’s trying his best, but Dad is starting to get exasperated. Will Toby ever feel comfortable with his new family and settle into his forever home, or will Dad decide he’s not the right dog for them after all?

REVIEW –  This is a touching story about a boy and a dog and the bond that can form so quickly when the two come together. When I first read the book, it made me think of my oldest grandson and a special dog that came into his life when he needed a fur-friend.

Like the father and son in this story, my grandson and his mother didn’t talk about why he might need a dog, but after Arthur came to live with them, we could all see the positive results. Some things in life can never be fixed, but having something warm and furry and comforting in your bed goes a long way toward making a child have a reason to smile.

It was interesting that neither the boy or the father are named in the story, and I didn’t even realize that until the second time through. At first I wondered why, but then, when I thought about it further, I realized it was a clever decision to have the dog be the only character with a name. How could we ever forget Toby?

That realization brought another. This story is about so much more than what is on the page. At least that’s the way I saw it, and I agree with what Dani Greer had to say at The Blood-Red Pencil blog earlier this month:

Like any really good book clearly written for children (and not with a hidden message for adults cloaked in #kidlit), the book still has enough innuendo and intrigue to engage the imagination of the older reader. Where is the mother in the story? Where does the dad work? What kind of sports do they like? What is the boy’s name and how old is he? What books does he like to read?

Not answering those questions in the narrative, leaves room for the readers, young and older, to use their imaginations to fill in the blanks. I can picture a scene where a mother or father reads the book with a young child and together they find the rest of the story.

And there is so much story to find in the illustrations that are so stunning, I couldn’t resist the impulse to look at them again and again. It is easy to see why Hazel is an award-winning illustrator.




In addition to all the other reasons to love this book, is the fact that the real Toby is a rescue dog – as was my  grandson’s. The idea to create the delightful book came from Hazel’s experience with her own Toby. Apparently, he resisted training, too.

Toby, Hazel and I encourage you to rescue a dog.

Do come back on Wednesday when Hazel and Toby will be my Wednesday’s Guests for a fun interview. 



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represented by Ginger Knowlton, Curtis Brown Ltd. NYC
TOBY. Copyright © 2016 by Hazel Mitchell. Images reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

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