Top 100 Picture Books #43: Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion, illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham
Harry the Dirty Dog is another of the few picture books that I remember from my childhood. I include it in my “Dirt and Mud” story time for my toddler story time; while it’s slightly longer than the majority of the books I include for this group, it never fails to capture their attention. And why not? A cute dog plus adventure would interest anyone. – Jennifer Schultz
All together! I’m just wild about Harry, and Harry’s wild about meeeeee…
Truth be told, Harry probably doesn’t care diddly over squat for me, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t love him just the same. Far more than merely the author who keeps getting shelved next to Charlotte Zolotow on our library shelves, Gene Zion and his wife Margaret Bloy Graham created an oddly iconic figure in the mischievous little pup that manages to get himself into and out of trouble in a particularly 1950s kinda way. He was the canine Dennis the Menace of his generation, sans the cutesy bon mots.
Children’s Literature described the plot as, “Harry is a most lovable black and white dog who has a whole range of adventures when he leaves his happy home in order to avoid getting a bath. He romps with the men repairing the street, in the railroad yard, and plays tag with other dogs. Each episode results in him getting dirtier and dirtier so that when he does return home, his family thinks he is a stray dog. Now Harry faces the task of getting his owners to recognize him as their pet. After several unsuccessful attempts, Harry digs up the scrubbing brush and takes it upstairs to the tub. The soapy bath reveals Harry to the family and he once again becomes ‘a white dog with black spots’.”
Married couples abound in creating children’s picture books and these two are no exception. According to 100 Best Books for Children (yes, I quote it a lot and yes, there is a reason for that), Graham met Margret and Hans Rey of Curious George fame (it’s all connected) and was encouraged to put together an art portfolio. She did, Zion wrote the tales, and the rest is history.
The New York Times said of the title, “Harry is sure to be loved; especially by those pre-school children to whom dirt is an ever-delightful thing.”
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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