Harry By the Sea – Gene Zion/Margaret Bloy Graham

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: 3 out of 10.

Bechdel: 0 points
Variety of characters: 1 point
Good story:  2 points
Discretionary ideological points: 0 points.

This is much like the other Harry books. Harry is pretty much the only character with a name, so it can’t pass Bechdel, but even if we removed the “named” part of the test, it still wouldn’t.

Harry’s family is white, and so are all the minor characters with whom he actually interacts, but there are people of colour hanging out on the beach, so at least it’s not a totally white-washed world.

It’s a cute story. Harry gets hot because the sun is doing its sun thing, and goes in search of shade. He eventually ends up in the water covered in seaweed and everyone thinks he is some kind of sea-monster. He runs around causing mayhem trying to find his family. Chaos and shenanigans ensue. But all ends well. Huzzah!

It’s cute, and worth a read. C thought the whole seaweed covered sea-monster thing was totally hysterically funny. It was fun to read. Nothing super subversive or interesting going on, but a neat little story. Probably my favourite in the series so far, despite not having much to say about it.

 

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.

No Roses for Harry! – 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 points.

This Harry book scores lower that the original, mostly because in the original book, the general illustrations suggested that there were some people in Harry’s town who weren’t middle class white folk, but in this one, that diversity is gone. There’s no Bechdel pass, everyone is nicely ensconsed in their pre-ordained gender roles and there’s not a person of colour to be seen.

The story is okay. Harry is given a gift he doesn’t much like, and manages to ‘lose’ it to a bird. When granny who knitted him said gift comes to visit Harry feels very bad about ‘losing’ the present, but they find out that the bird has turned it into a nest which is much more appreciated, and Harry gets a new sweater in a pattern more to his taste.

I have mixed feelings about this. C and I had a conversation about gifts and how sometimes you might get something you don’t like that much, but how the correct response to that is rather to appreciate the effort and love in the gift that be a dick and ‘lose’ it. C seemed very adamantly on the side of being polite, which pleases me.

I dunno. It was okay, I guess. I am certainly not sold on these books. There just really isn’t that much going on, and in a world where there are a plethora of cute “from the point of view of the dog” books, I don’t think they really measure up. C liked it, and it was okay – I don’t have anything too horrid to say about it, but I was underwhelmed.

It’s no Hairy Maclary, that’s for sure.

Harry the Dirty Dog -Gene Zion

POINTS: 3 out of 10.

Bechdel:  0 points
Variety of characters: 1 point
Good story: 2 points
Discretionary ideological points: 0 points

I have no strong feelings about this book. The only named character is Harry, so it cannot pass Bechdel. I gave it a point for diversity just because the illustrations show people in all the beautiful shades they can have, just, like goin’ about their business as if it’s no big deal. This shouldn’t be notable, but it is. Harry’s own family is white and very ‘default’- one mom, one dad, one boy, one girl. But hey, we have to start somewhere right?

The story is cute enough, I guess. Harry does not want to have a bath so he hides the scrub brush in the garden and runs away. Over the course of his adventure he gets dirty, then he misses his family and home and he returns. But oh no! they don’t recognise him because of all the dirt! (This stretched my credulity, honestly. I have had many dogs in my lifetime, several of whom were prone to getting muddy, and that has never ever led me to not recognise them. But hey. It’s a kids’ book.) Harry jumps in the bath. The family bath him (which leads me to think that maybe they were trolling him with that whole “we don’t know who you are” thing), and once all the dirt is washed off they realise it’s him and live happily ever after.

It’s mildly entertaining. I suppose if there’s a ‘message’ it’s that baths are good. I’m certainly not of the opinion that every book should have a message. There’s no real ideological base to this story I can point to. C thought it was funny. I thought it was okay. I don’t dislike it, but it probably isn’t going to become a favourite of ours.

Simple, solid kid storytelling, nothing spectacular to write home about.