Speak Up, Tommy!

  • Interest Level: Preschool - Grade 3
  • Reading Level: Grade 1

Tommy’s classmates tease him about his Israeli accent and the way he speaks English. But his knowledge of Hebrew makes him a hero when a policeman and his dog come to visit Tommy’s school.

Format Your Price Add
Interest Level Preschool - Grade 3
Reading Level Grade 1
Genre Picture Books
Copyright 2012
Publisher Lerner Publishing Group
Imprint Kar-Ben Publishing ®
Language English
Number of Pages 32
Publication Date 2012-08-01
Text Type Fiction
BISACS JUV033020, JUV039060
Dewey [E]
Graphics Full-color illustrations
Dimensions 7.75 x 10.25
ATOS Reading Level 3.1
Accelerated Reader® Quiz 155250
Accelerated Reader® Points 0.5
Features Awards, Original artwork, and Reviewed

Author: Jacqueline Dembar Greene

Jacqueline Dembar Greene is the award-winning author of more than 30 books for young readers, including the American Girl® Rebecca Rubin series and The Secret Shofar of Barcelona. She lives in Wayland, Massachusetts.

Illustrator: Deborah Melmon

Deborah Melmon has been a freelance illustrator in the San Francisco Bay area for over 30 years. Among her many picture books are Picnic at Camp Shalom, Speak Up, Tommy, One Good Deed, and Chicken Soup, Chicken, Soup. Deborah lives with a comical Airedale Terrier named Mack.


  • Children's Book Committee at Bank Street College Best Children's Book of the Year, Winner, 2013
  • Sydney Taylor Book Award Notable, Commended, 2013


Jewish Book World

“Tommy’s classmates tease him about his quiet voice and his Israeli accent. He doesn’t like reading to the class, and stays by himself at recess. One day, Officer Sweeney and his police dog, Samson, pay a visit to Tommy’s class. Tommy instantly feels comfort­able with Samson, who reminds him of his dog, who had to stay in Israel. When Samson smells something interesting and begins bark­ing, only Tommy can figure out how to quiet him. It turns out that Samson was trained in Israel and only obeys commands in Hebrew. An interesting deal is struck; Tommy will teach Officer Sweeney the Hebrew he needs to give Samson his commands, and Officer Sweeney will help Tommy learn to speak English with more confidence.

Jacqueline Dembar Greene’s heartwarm­ing story shows how friendships begin and Deborah Melmon’s illustrations evoke the stresses and triumphs of a classroom, the joyful chaos of a playground, and the bustle of a city street. Virtually all children will be able to relate to Tommy’s insecurity in some way. This book, based loosely on a true story, provides a non-preachy starting point for a variety of discussions about compassion, toler­ance, and friendship. Highly recommended for ages 4-8.”—Jewish Book World

School Library Journal

“Tommy is shy in his new American school, where kids tease him about his Israeli accent. He gains confidence when a police officer and Israeli-trained police dog visit his class. By pronouncing the Hebrew commands, Tommy helps the officer and gains his classmates’ respect. The story was inspired by an actual incident, as related in the author’s note. A glossary of English/Hebrew dog commands rounds out the package. While highlighting the Israeli contribution to counterterrorism through the training of explosive-detection dogs, this story offers universal themes about being the new kid and fitting in. Tommy’s anxiety is realistically depicted, as is the thoughtless (but not cruel) teasing of the other kids. Their change in attitude once their interest is piqued is realistic as well. Expressive watercolor cartoons convey the characters’ emotions and give individuality to each child in the crowded classroom.” —School Library Journal

The Children's Book Review

“What to expect: Mean behavior in a school setting; immigration; foreign languages; lessons about compassion and utility.

Speak Up, Tommy! tells the story of a little boy who’s in a new school in a new country and feels out of place. Tommy has to learn a new language, new games, new rules and despite his attempts to try and fit in, his classmates aren’t helping. Tommy begins to pull back and withdraw from his class until a visit from a rescue dog gives him a reason to try again.

This gem of a book is based on a true story about a police dog that was trained in Israel and only understood Hebrew commands. Much like Tommy, the dog also felt out of place and alone. The meeting between the two is heartwarming and provides the perfect opportunity to explain to children the need to care for those that may be hurting, or alone.” —The Children’s Book Review