The Adventures of Doc Holliday Hennings
Lulu Publishing, 2017
There is an honest pleasure in reading aloud especially to children. Doing so creates a moment of intimacy, deep memory, and, hopefully, initiates a love of literacy. Small children delight in picture books and the voices of adults when clearly directed at them. But for children who are not quite independent readers but far too old for picture books, there can be a lull or lack in the book industry. Young Adult (YA) or Middle-Grade fiction is rampantly popular both with its target audience and with adults. It would be nice to see a similar popularity strike the early reader or chapter book markets.
Definitely a story doing its best to spark popularity in the early reader/chapter book genres is T.K. Bethea’s The Adventures of Doc Holliday Hennings, a novel designed to be read to children but also one that could be taken up independently. Bethea’s novel presents us with a father and son who after a tragic loss find strength with their newly adopted puppy, Doc Holliday. A precious pup, when Doc Holliday runs away after overhearing and misunderstanding his owners, the adventures begin.
Bethea is skilled in transitioning from the point of the of Doc and his animal friends to the human characters making for solid parallel storylines. Our drama comes in the familiar form of running away from home only to realize that’s where your loved ones are. For both Jeffery and Doc, the journeys change them for the better.
In Jeffery’s case we see a young boy who as pinned all his hopes into his new puppy avoiding the negatives in his life so when that suddenly disappears, he lashes out. Running away from home (however briefly) in search of his dog makes for real human drama as his father and teacher go searching for him. Eventually, the three human characters reunite and in doing so discover how they are becoming a new, different family, and one that loves Doc.
Doc’s story reads smoothly hitting all the right notes like a well-scripted film. Doc meets a mature squirrel Penelope who serves as a kind of guide. The two fall in with a dodgy pack of strays who want to ransom Doc. But with the help of a cat named Spot and some other pariahs, Doc finds his way back to his family while challenging and changing the stray social order for the better. Bethea’s story builds steadily leading to a climatic ‘battle’ scene whose drama glides readers into a happy ending.
In fact, with Corey Wolfe’s illustrations it will be easy for readers, young and old, to imagine an animated feature of Doc Holliday’s antics. Being able to visualize a narrative is vital for young readers. For parents worried children may be spending too much time in front of screens, a story like Bethea’s can serve as a wonderful bridge. The Adventures of Doc Holliday Hennings is an excellent read for early elementary aged children and well worth making part of every family’s library.
TK Bethea is a songwriter and storyteller who began writing to share exciting stories with his daughter. Inspired by memories of his childhood dog, also called Doc Holliday, he created a tale that addresses issues such as blended families, stepparents, half siblings, mixed cultural upbringings and bullying. He currently lives in Queens, New York. For more information, visit the author’s website at: www.adventuresofdoc.com.