Thoughts on writing and reading for boys and young men.
There comes a time in every rightly-constructed boy's life when he has a raging desire to go somewhere and dig for hidden treasure. -Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Featured Book: Harry the Dirty Dog

Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion 
HarperCollins, 1956
Illustrations by Margaret Bloy Graham
The title of Gene Zion's 1956 Harry the Dirty Dog says it all. Harry dislikes cleanliness. He hides the scrub brush whenever it's time to take a bath. To Harry, filthiness is next to dogliness.  So he runs away and indulges in joyous, untidy rebellion. His dirty doings are depicted in a series of short, simple sentences and corresponding drawings: playing in a street, at the railroad, with other dogs. Even in a coal chute! In a humorous twist, all of the grime transforms Harry from a white dog with black spots to a black dog with white spots. He looks so different that his family doesn’t recognize him when he returns home (one of several indications that Harry is brighter than his family--another being that he always outsmarts them with concealing the bath brush). Harry finally does the very last thing he ever expected to do in his entire life: beg his family for a bath.  But as the story comes to close, we’re not left feeling like Harry “gives in.”  No, Harry might be clean and safe at home, but the bath brush is still tucked safely beneath his pillow.  Only now, it seems, that instead of always refusing to be clean, he will be the judge of when he needs a bath (i.e. when his silly family doesn't recognize him through the filth!).

1 comment:

  1. Excellent synopsis to one of the most delightful stories I've had the pleasure of reading. I always wish I had discovered it as a child though, instead of in my late 20s. I'm sure it would have been one of my favorites.