Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion

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Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion

Category: For Sharing
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: The best picture books grow with familiarity and repetition. If they work, as Harry The Dirty Dog works, they will be with you for a very long time. Harry's a wonderful character in a sweet and funny little story. This is a picture book to buy, not borrow.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 30 Date: October 1992
Publisher: Red Fox
ISBN: 0099978709

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Harry is a lovely little white dog with black spots, but Harry is also a Dirty Dog. He likes most things but he doesn't like the bath any more than Sixer does. So, when he hears the taps running, he steals the scrubbing brush, buries it in the back garden in his special hiding place, and, just to make absolutely, very, most certainly sure he's avoided all ablutions, runs away from home. Harry has great fun while he's running away because most things are an adventure to him. Bath forgotten, he plays with the men mending the road and gets rather dirty from the tarmac, he plays by the railway and gets even dirtier from the fumes, and he has a great game of tag with the other dogs getting dirtier still with all the mud in the fields. Finally he finds a coal lorry and slides down its chute getting himself the dirtiest of all. He's now a black dog with not very many white spots at all. He's also a hungry dog, and a tired one, and he's beginning to worry that his family will think he's really run away, forever.

He rushes home, for food, bed and reassurance, only to find that no one recognises him. He tries to show the family it's him, Harry, and he does all his special tricks - he "flop flips", "flip flops", plays dead, rolls over, dances and barks, but still no one realises that it's him. Harry's beginning to worry that fun as his adventure was, maybe he should have thought a little harder first, and he slinks away sadly to ponder his next move. Suddenly an idea occurs to him and he rushes to the garden and begins to dig feverishly. When he's found what he's looking for he bounds into the house and upstairs. The family find him sitting in the bath, holding in his mouth the scrubbing brush he buried earlier. After a good, soapy scrubbing he is revealed: "It's Harry! It's Harry!" cry the children happily, and all is right again in Harry's world:

It was wonderful to be home. After dinner, Harry fell asleep in his favourite place, happily dreaming of how much fun it had been getting dirty. He slept so soundly, he didn't even feel the scrubbing brush he'd hidden under his pillow.

Written by Gene Zion and illustrated by Margery Bloy Graham, Harry looks perky and mischievous; his whole head is tilted upwards, drawing your eye to that little, black, inquisitive nose of his which is always in search of something new, something exciting, and something he's bound to enjoy. Harry's always so busy, just as children are, and to him the world is a enjoyable, happy place, just as it is to most children. In fact, all the characters in Harry the Dirty Dog are drawn with an air of infectious enthusiasm. Just looking at them makes you start to smile. They're busy pictures but not too detailed, drawn with confident, exuberant strokes. The backgrounds are gentle and blurry with but plenty of white space, drawing your children's eyes straight to Harry and his deeds, moving them along with the narrative, but with enough detail to make a story book as well as a picture book, suitable for for talking about long after the reading is over and for the way that little ones like to tell the story again to themselves from the illustrations.

The best picture books grow with familiarity and repetition. If they work, as Harry works, they provide the strongest link from a love of the closeness with parents that reading together brings in the youngest stages of a child's life to a love of the books themselves, of understanding narrative, of reading stories and also of telling stories of their own. You really can't ask for better than that.

There are more books about Harry. Our favourite of those others is No Roses for Harry which is about the little dog's attempt to rid himself of an unwanted coat with an awful pattern of roses. It's very funny. Do buy some Harry books for your children. They'll love him, they will. He'll be one of those books you read almost every day for ages and ages, even if he did first appear such a long time ago. It's hard to believe that Harry was first written about in the 1950s but I think that is because he's such a friend of children. They identify with him, his easy excitement, his love of life, and his enthusiasm for the big world around him, they identify with his dislikes too, especially the bath.

For more picture book animal adventures, try our review of Mog The Forgetful Cat, by Judith Kerr.

Booklists.jpg Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion is in the Top Ten Timeless Picture Books To Treasure Forever.
Buy Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion at Amazon.com.


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