Fenway and Hattie by Victoria J. Coe – Review by Jason Lewis
For almost fourteen years, my family had an amazing dog, a black lab named Soxie (named after the Boston Red Sox, of course). She was the most gentle, loving dog and brought joy to our family every day. She sat at the door with her tail wagging every time we entered the house, she cuddled with us in the evenings and offered far too many slobbery kisses. During her lifetime, there were several times when we wondered what she was really thinking. What did she think about the large yard and the disappearance of her leash when we moved into a new home with its fenced-in yard? What was she thinking as she she received less and less attention from us as son number one and then son number two was born? What about being dressed up in the boys’ clothes or in a bathing suit? How about the vacations where she was boarded for several days? What did she think as she was getting older and couldn’t keep up with the boys? What was she thinking when she couldn’t go outside anymore if there was snow or ice on the ground? How did she feel about all of these changes in her life? Like all dogs, she wasn’t able to give us these answers.
If you want to know what it feels like to be in the mind of a dog, then you need to read Victoria J. Coe’s debut novel, Fenway and Hattie. This book allows the reader to step into the mind of a dog and get a peek at how dogs interpret the world around them. In Fenway and Hattie readers are quickly introduced to Fenway, a rambunctious Jack Russell Terrier, who is moving with his family from the suburbs to the city. We are brought inside Fenway’s world as he tries to figure out why his humans’ belongings are being “stolen” from his family’s house by intruders. We are along for the ride as Fenway chases those menacing, troublesome squirrels, earns treats at puppy training school, attacks an ice cream truck, and tries to navigate a slippery kitchen floor.
“I start out trotting with my nose to the ground. Pretty soon, I’m sprinting down the hall on a Perfect Running Surface that I wish would go on forever. But then I make a sharp turn and cruise into a bright and gleaming place where the floor feels different. Smoother. And slipperier.
Suddenly, the floor gives way. My paws lose their grip and-whoa!-I’m skidding and skidding, my legs scrambling out of control. And then-smack! I’m crumpled up against a tall and shiny box that’s humming. Ouch! What happened?
I glance down and growl at Wicked Floor. Talk about a sneak attack. I never saw it coming.
My defeat is so embarrassing.”
We also see the world through Fenway’s eyes as he realizes he’s losing Hattie, his favorite “short human.” After the move to the city, Hattie meets a girl named Angel and starts spending more time with her and less time with Fenway. Fenway constantly tries to engage in play with Hattie and Angel, but as he makes it harder for the girls to play, he finds himself instead watching from inside or tied to a tree. As Hattie and Angel’s friendship grows, Fenway begins going to puppy training school where he is asked to follow Hattie’s commands for treats. Unfortunately, Fenway is having a hard time learning these new commands which frustrates Hattie. Furthermore, he’s interfering whenever Hattie wants to go outside to play. Fenway can feel Hattie’s frustration and senses she’s distancing herself from him. After consulting with neighboring dogs who thinks Fenway and Hattie’s relationship is a lost cause, Fenway tries everything to make things go back to the way they were before the move.
There are many books told from an animal’s perspective or point of view. However, some of these animals end up taking on human qualities while losing some of the animal perspective along the way. In Fenway and Hattie, Victoria J. Coe writes in a unique style allowing the reader to enter Fenway’s mind and stay there for the entire story. Interpreting the world around him, the reader can see how Fenway thinks about things, how he reacts, how he feels. We are there when he acts impulsively, and when his actions are misinterpreted by the humans in his life, even when they are out of love and protection.
Readers and dog lovers everywhere are going to enjoy reading this book from Fenway’s perspective. They are going to enjoy watching him navigate the world around him as well as react to the emotions of the humans in his life. Fenway will allow them to infer to make meaning of the text and think about how life must be from a dog’s point of view. Readers will laugh when Fenway misinterprets something, feel sad for Fenway as he and Hattie grow apart, and they will all want their very own Fenway.
As I read Fenway and Hattie I gained great insight into the mind of my dog. The large yard and the disappearance of her leash must have felt like freedom to her that she couldn’t wait to explore. When the boys were born, they gave her two more humans to love, steal food from, and play with. The vacations away from us gave her the chance to mingle with other dogs. The ice that kept her from going outside in her final days must have felt like her own Wicked Floor. I always knew that dogs give their humans unconditional love, but this book opened my eyes to just how much they love their humans. Be on the lookout for more adventures with Fenway in future books by Victoria J. Coe!
Jason Lewis (@jasontes5th) is a 5th grade teacher at Tyngsborough Elementary School in Tyngsborough, Massachusetts. Jason recognizes that his participation in the Nerdy Book Club has positively impacted the way he teaches and has introduced him to outstanding people he calls friends. Jason loves attending Nerdcamp, having been to Nerdcamps in Northern New England, Long Island, and Michigan. He is very honored and excited to write this review of Victoria J. Coe’s first book.