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Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite
Bentley and the Magic Sticks, written by Claire Eckard and illustrated by Anne York, is a children's picture book centered around a big, lonely, domestic canine. Bentley is of a giant unspecified dog breed and his enormous size makes normal day-to-day living different from dogs of average size. Bentley is well-loved and attached to his human parents, and returns his love for them in a helpful fashion. What more could a pup want than to be comfortable and loved? Friends. Bentley is ignored by all of the other dogs at the dog park that enjoy playing together. He watches sadly as they romp and frolic, filling the time by looking for new sticks to add to his collection at home. One night Bentley finds that someone else truly cares for him also, a Fairy DogMother named Tia who brings Bentley's stick collection to life.
Bentley and the Magic Sticks is a book where Claire Eckard uses the customary children's themes of friendship, compassion, acceptance, generosity, and love to promote favorable qualities with the story's moral basis. The tale of Bentley moves away from resolutions that are self-taught and gives that agency to his Fairy DogMother in a Cinderella-esque twist. Bentley does not solve the problem himself, learn a lesson, or change at any point in the book but the other dogs at the park do after meeting Sticky. The substance over style writing is countered by Anne York's richly colorful illustrations which marry together modern graphic artistry and traditional design work. Most impressive are the facial expressions of Bentley and all of the dogs at the park. There's an adorable scene where two pups were peeking from behind a bush as Bentley plays with Sticky and the smaller dog practically leaps off the page in excitement. The kids had fun with the pictures and there were giggles galore as we tucked them into bed.