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“Slooooow it down. Breathe. Act with purpose, kid,” Dad. –Hero    

Hero #1

by Jennifer Li Shotz
AR Test

At A Glance
Interest Level

Reading Level
Number of Pages

Hero, a retired search-and-rescue dog, is not prepared for a stray puppy to come into his life. But when he and a twelve-year-old boy, Ben, discover Scout is injured and afraid, Hero is determined to give the tiny pup a home. Ben promises his parents that he will be able to care for both of the dogs and still be able to keep up on his school work.

When Scout hears a loud noise, he becomes frightened and runs off, disappearing. Hero and Ben go in search of Scout, but soon Ben and Hero find themselves going down dangerous and unexpected paths. Ben soon learns that he has gained the attention of Mitch, the leader of a dogfighting ring. Mitch is determined to capture both Scout and Hero in order to make the dogs fight. Can Ben find his dogs and bring them home before it’s too late?

Ben is excited when he learns that the police department has agreed to let him take care of Hero. However, Ben soon finds that taking care of a dog isn’t as easy as he thought. Soon, Ben is falling behind in school and forgetting important obligations. Ben’s father has always taught him to act with purpose, but Ben seems to be messing up more and more.

When Scout and Hero are missing, Ben intentionally lies to his family about the dogs’ whereabouts because he doesn’t want to get in trouble. He also sneaks out of the house and puts himself and his friend Noah in dangerous situations. When Ben finally talks to his parents, he justifies his actions by thinking that he “hadn’t lied, exactly. He’d told his parents the truth—just not all of it.” Ben doesn’t reveal the whole truth until there is no other option.

Hero is a fast-paced story that takes readers into the dogfighting arena. Readers will connect with both Ben and Hero as they try to save each other. The story doesn’t just focus on dogfighting. Instead, Ben also has conflict with a new boy at school and his friend Noah. The well-rounded story is full of danger and friendship. Even though Ben’s actions do not always make sense, readers will fall in love with Hero.

 Sexual Content

  • None


  • When Ben is distracted, Jack throws a baseball at him. Ben tries to duck, but he isn’t fast enough. “The ball nailed him on his right collarbone, hard. The pain shot through his body. Ben doubled over and took short, sharp breaths, hoping he didn’t pass out right there on the field.”
  • Ben and Noah sneak into a barn that men use for dogfighting. Ben can hear “snarling. Growling. Pained yelping and crying. He smelled the sharp tang of blood in the air.” As Ben looks around the barn, he sees caged dogs. The dog’s faces “were scared and bloody. Their bodies bore the marks of man injuries. Even worse than their wounds, though, were their eyes. They gazed at Ben with a combination of desperation and fear.”
  • As Ben looks for Scout, he can hear “dogs tearing at each other. . . Ben heard one of the dogs wailing and whimpering. It sounded like the animal was hurt—badly.”
  • The leader of the dogfighting ring sees Ben in the barn and pulls a knife on him. Hero sees Ben and he “soared at top speed, front paws extended, teeth bared. . . He [Mitch] let out a confused grunt as Hero landed on him. Ben watched Mitch’s eyes grow big as his body fell forward, Hero on his back with his teeth clamped down on the back of Mitch’s neck. . . Mitch fell facedown onto the concrete floor, his head hitting the ground with a sickening thump. . . Mitch was out cold.”
  • After Ben gets away from Mitch, two “bloodthirsty demons” chase him. Hero comes to the rescue. “One of the dogs was on the ground bleeding. The other was crouched down low, circling his opponent: Hero.” Ben runs away.
  • When Mitch again corners Ben, Hero’s “eyes burned with hatred, and when he opened his mouth to snarl at the men, Ben saw blood on his teeth from the other dogs. . . Hero launched himself into the air, straight at Mitch. . . Mitch wailed in pain as his head smacked the concrete again.” Ben runs away.
  • Again, Mitch comes after Ben. “Hero snarled and snapped his head sideways, latching on to Mitch’s calf with his powerful jaw. Mitch cried out in pain, but he couldn’t get away.” Hero bites Mitch on the leg. A man tackles Hero. Ben grabs a rusty shovel and “hefted it with both hands and ran toward Hero and the man who still lay on top of him. . . Ben swung the shovel high in the air and brought it down fast onto his head. With a groan, the man passed out cold and fell to the side, off Hero.” Hero is injured and has to be taken to the vet. The barn scene is described over eight pages.
  • Hero leads Ben and his father to Mitch, the leader of the dogfighting ring. Hero runs into Mitch’s house and is attacked by two dogs. Ben watches as “Hero and the two dogs spun in circles, snapping their jaws and pouncing on each other. It was a cloud of fur and spit.”
  • When Ben’s father sees Mitch, he pulls a gun on him. As the two men talk, Scout “launched himself at Mitch. The puppy jumped onto Mitch’s wounded leg, closing his small but sharp teeth on his calf.” The police arrest Mitch. The scene is described over six pages.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None


  • Heck is used three times. For example, Ben tells his dog, “You scared the heck out of me.”
  • When Ben asks Noah for help, Noah replies, “Of course I’ll help you, stupid.”


  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None
Other books by Jennifer Li Shotz
Other books you may enjoy

“Slooooow it down. Breathe. Act with purpose, kid,” Dad. –Hero    

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