Harry and the Lady Next Door – Gene Zion

More in the Series – Harry
“More in the Series” scores the other books in a series where one (or more) of the books have made it into the 1001 Books list. Mostly because I’m a bit of a completionist. 

POINTS: 1 out of 10.

Bechdel: 0 points
Variety of characters: 0 points
Good story:  1 point
Discretionary ideological points: 0 point.

This book is not a picture book like its predecessors. It’s a chapter book. Nevertheless, C and I read it in a single sitting, and he stayed mostly interested, which is a good sign.

However, by the metrics of this project, it fails on every count, I’m afraid. Despite the fact that the story is, in theory anyway, about “the lady next door” she gets no dialogue at all, and the story fails the Bechdel. The lady next door’s entire purpose in this book is to sing badly and be a foil for Harry’s shenanigans.

The diversity in the illustrations of the first book is not in evidence here – apparently only white people engage in community singing contests. And farming. And being in marching bands. And standing on the street.

I went back and read my reviews for the other two Harry books so far, and my response to this is much the same which is to say, I am fairly unmoved by them. They’re not awful. I mean, they’re entertaining enough. But there’s nothing particularly memorable about them either.

In this one Harry does not like the singing of the lady next door, and so he wanders about finding other things that make (to him) more pleasant sounds, like cows and frogs, and tries to hint to her that she should change how she sings by basically parking the things outside her window. (I know that when someone herds cows by my window, the message I get is “sing more like a cow”…)

Then there is a local singing contest, which, due to a series of events, she wins, and off she goes to “study music in a far-off country”, thus freeing Harry from her singing for a long time! Huzzah! Or something.

Plot wise, it’s holey, and while I think that Harry’s lack of appreciation for her singing is meant to be seen as naivete or something like it, I found myself not very sympathetic to his plight. Get over it hound.

I have no doubt that there are people who love these books, but they won’t be in our rotation.

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