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Children's Fiction Special Needs

Harley the Hero

by (author) Peggy Collins

Pajama Press Inc.
Initial publish date
Jun 2021
Special Needs, Dogs, School & Education
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Jun 2021
    List Price

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Where to buy it

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 4 to 7
  • Grade: k to 2



An exciting picture book inspired by a real-life classroom service dog with themes of friendship, neurodivergence, and courage

Harley the service dog is on the job! He goes to school every day with Ms. Prichard to make sure she feels safe. Their students are a lot of fun, but Harley can’t play with them while he's wearing his work vest. They write him lots of letters instead, and everything is perfect in the best, most quiet class in the whole school. Until the day the old stage curtains catch fire. As the fire alarm blares and chaos erupts, Harley remembers that Ms. Prichard isn't the only human in his class who gets upset by loud noises.

Inspired by a true story, Harley the Hero celebrates the work of service animals and the normalization of neurodivergence. Author-illustrator Peggy Collins brings Harley and his class to charming life and concludes with an Author's Note about the real dog behind the fictional Harley.


About the author

Peggy Collins is a graphic designer and an award-winning children’s book author-illustrator with more than 35 titles to her name, including Harley the Hero, Hungry for Math: Poems to Munch On, In the Snow, and In the Garden. Peggy teaches animation at Loyalist College as well as illustration and drawing at St. Lawrence College. She has also written and illustrated for animated apps teaching math, indigenous history, and education. Peggy lives in Newburgh, Ontario with her two children.


Peggy Collins' profile page


  • Winner, OLA Forest of Reading Blue Spruce Award
  • Short-listed, CCBC Best Books for Kids & Teens Fall Selection
  • Short-listed, 49th Shelf “Books for Back to School”
  • Short-listed, 49th Shelf “International Day of People with Disabilities”

Editorial Reviews

Praise for Harley the Hero

2022 OLA Forest of Reading Blue Spruce Award Winner
2021 49th Shelf “Books for Back to School” selection
2021 CCBC Best Books for Kids & Teens Fall Selection
2021 The Naapanee Beaver Feature Book
2021 49th Shelf “International Day of People with Disabilities” selection
Dr. Larry Recommends “Ten Picture Books, June 2022” Feature

"The illustrations are inclusive, from the progress pride flag flying over the school under the Canadian maple leaf to the diverse classroom, which includes a child who uses a wheelchair....A lighthearted introduction to service dogs and their grateful partners."—Kirkus Reviews

“Collins has based her book on the true experience of a young teacher suffering from PTSD whom she met at her son’s school… this wonderful show of empathy by children for their young teacher, and by the narrator, for the fragile Amelia provides some valuable insights to young readers. A classroom drama with a lesson in caring, Harley the Hero will be enjoyed by children and the adults who introduce the book to them.”—CM Magazine

“Among students of all backgrounds and abilities, Harley is a calming force. The detailed illustrations will reward attentive eyes in this bright picture book about accepting and celebrating each other’s differences.”—Foreword Reviews

“The teacher is described as having an “invisible disability” and Harvey helps her feel safe, which I think is an appropriate and positive description for young children. This would make a great read aloud for an elementary school classroom.”—Youth Services Book Review

“Collins brings the children in this story to life with vivid colours and expressive characters. The students are from diverse backgrounds, represent multiple exceptionalities, and Harley is a most endearing pup who loves to lick people’s feet.”— Canadian Children’s Book Centre

“Not only does Harley the Hero teach about the diversity of disabilities and how some may be imperceptible, until they're not, as well as teaching about fire safety, it also enlightens students about the protocols for service animals in schools, especially as they become more common.”—CanLit for Little Canadians

“I liked that Ms. Prichard is the best teacher she can be.”—Yuliana 5, EMWF Kids’ Reads

“[C]elebrates the work of service animals and the normalization of neurodivergence.”—The International Educator

“Diverse faces and abilities feature throughout the story making Harley the Hero a very inclusive story and one that will touch many different readers.”—Storytime with Stephanie

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