Joe Learns to Listen

Diana Duncan

Publisher: Partridge Pages: 28 Price: (paperback) $29.99 ISBN: 9781543774214 Reviewed: May, 2024 Author Website: Visit »

In this rhyming story, a chatty boy makes a new best friend with a dog who loves his company, even if others find his monologue overwhelming.

Joe cannot stop talking. Even his parents tire of it, and his teacher is sometimes so frustrated “she could scream.” His parents decide that the solution isn’t to tell him, as that would make him “feel bad.” Instead, they decide to get him a dog that won’t mind the constant chatter.

Bruno comes into their lives and becomes fast friends with Joe. When COVID-19 closes schools, Joe’s talkative nature becomes a benefit, as other students don’t want to speak up as much in online learning. Soon, though, Joe falls ill and can no longer speak. Instead, Bruno begins to speak for him, barking and nodding. This, too, sparks a compliment from his teacher. Once Joe recovers, he’s back to his usual personality, and his friendship with Bruno never flags.

The relationship between Joe and Bruno will resonate with many readers—young and old—who have pets that love them despite their quirks and flaws. The full-page illustrations are colorful and show expressive moments of conversation and interaction that complement the narrative. These factors, combined with the interesting premise of a boy who doesn’t realize he’s wearing down those around him, set up a promising story.

However, despite the book’s title, Joe never really grapples with his behavior and impact on others. This means he not only doesn’t change from the start of the book to the end, but also doesn’t make a conscious choice to stay the same. Ultimately, this lends the character a passive feel and creates an unsatisfying conclusion from which it’s difficult to glean useful lessons.

Young readers will likely enjoy the book’s depiction of nice moments between a boy and his dog. Still, this story would have more impact and a clearer message if its main character devoted time to some personal reflection.

Also available in hardcover and ebook.

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