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This book was written 50 years ago!
I remember having it read to me when I was very young and I still enjoy it, although I know there are better and more interesting books around.
The story focuses, not surprisingly, around Harry, a little white dog with black spots who liked everything, except having a bath. There he is, on the very first page, running down the stairs with the scrubbing brush in his mouth, ready to bury it in the black garden.
He runs away from home, and we see him wandering past the fruit and veg shop with everyone looking at him-the shop keeper, the cats and the children in pushchairs.
Harry plays on the street with the men digging up the roads and got dirty, then played on the railway and got even dirtier. When he played with the other dogs he got even dirtier and when he slid down the coal chute, he got dirtiest of all (look at the comparatives).
Harry changed from a white dog with black spots to a black dog with white spots.
At this stage, Harry wonders, and the wonder he wonders is whether his family will be missing him- a dog with a conscience. When I read this to Little Miss the other day, she was adamant, that yes, his family WOULD be missing him because they loved him! So, I believe Harry has a conscience but then we learn that he is hungry and tired, and therein lies the real reason for his musings.
He runs back home and its a very different Harry we see now. Instead of bouncing along the pavement, smiling at people, this time, he slinks along, looking longingly at the people eating in the restaurant.
Imagine his distress when he gets home, only to hear one of his people comment that there is a strange dog in the back garden . Harry tries to convince them that he is indeed their beloved dog- cue the tricks, which are excellent; I especially like it when Harry sings, because it reminds me of that rather famous dog who rose to fame because he could say sausages.
Poor Harry, nobody believes it is him, so he slinks off.
Bingo! He has an idea and runs to a tree where he frantically starts to dig. Remember the scrubbing brush at the start of the story? Well, that clever little dog has found it. He runs up the stairs and jumps into the bath.
What a lovely family. There is a strange dog in their bath and they decide to bath him.
Guess what happens like in 101 dalmations when the snow washes off the soot ( comment made by my daughter), the dirt is washed off Harry, who had once again become a white dog with black spots.
Harry of course is delighted to be home again and after his food, curls up in his basket for a well earned sleep, and so tired was he that he didnt even feel the scrubbing brush hed hidden under his pillow
Well, thats the plot given away!!
**THE ILLUSTRATIONS* *
I love these illustrations because they are so simple and yet so effective.
There are very few colours used- blak, shades of grey, yellow, green and a sort of beige colour. (I think thats all)
The pictures themselves have been printed showing thick black lines which are then lightly filled in with the colours, such as they are.
The use of illustration versus text has been carefully considered. When Harry is out and about on his wanderings, there are double page spread pictures with only a sentence of writing; presumably to show what a great time he is having.
When he is doing his tricks, there is a series of smaller pictures, so that all of the tricks can be shown on one page; again, I presume, for maximum imact.
Children like the expressions on Harrys face. It is really obvious to us how he is feeling, because he is shown either smiling or with his mouth turned down. Children can relate to these kind of pictures.
Oh, and one more thing is ACME written on any of the Disney things, because a child told me that the ACME COAL must be from the Disney shop!!
Bodley Head 1956
I have no idea if this has been printed by anyone else. Mine is a hard back copy but I would imagine that a brief foray onto some websites will bring up a copy or ten; I just cant imagine it being read very much.
I really do enjoy this book, and have read it to lots of Key Stage 1 children.
The pictures are dated, and children do notice that there are very few colours and that the people are wearing funny clothes.
The backdrop to Harrys life is different to today, but when children comment on the strange train or the coal chute, this promotes discussion about life before they were born (and in the greater scheme of things not So long ago).
There is so much to get out of the illustrations alone- for example, look out for the parasol on the roller and the people driving through the building site.
However, what they notice most is Harry.
He is such an appealing little dog, and drawn exactly as children draw dogs- with a smiling face.
It is worth reading for enjoyment if you have a copy, if only to see if there is any conversation comes out of it.
One little boy thought we could do all about symmetry based on the front cover. Its incredible what children notice.
For a little bit of what is almost picture book history, I would recommend you read it. I always think there cant have been many picture books 50 years ago, so this was probably quite ground breaking.
It is an enjoyable story and even though old fashioned, I havent read it to any children who think its boring.
Thanks for reading.
Eek. Did I tell you? Sixer, one of our kittens, fell in the bath. It was a very full, very bubbly bath and I was in it. He shot off, not like a scalded cat, because my bath wasn't that hot, thank heavens, but like a very wet, very unhappy cat indeed. Oh, poor Sixer, it wasn't his fault – he was lonely because Michael, Conor and Kieran were away in Devon and he'd been alone all day while I was at work. So naturally, he was following me all about the house. I dried him off though, and gave him a big cuddle, and all was well. Everything has a silver lining though, doesn't it, even a kitten falling in the bath, getting sopping wet and frightening itself silly. I told Conor and Kieran all about poor Sixer's escapade when they got back, and the second thing Kieran did after I'd explained that animals generally wash themselves with their tongues and don't like baths much (the first was to make entirely sure that Sixer wasn't still wet, bless him), was to fetch Harry. 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, absolutely 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 where 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." Illustrated by Margery Bloy Graham, Harry looks perky and mischievous; his whole head is always looking up, drawing your eye to that little, black, inquisitive nose of his that 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 child
ren'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. Kieran loves to do that, and especially with Harry. In fact, the other night after I'd told them about Sixer and the unfortunate bath incident, Harry the Dirty Dog was read by us three times in succession: once by me, once by Conor because he can read simple picture books aloud now, and once by Kieran from the pictures, not the words. I left them in bed, reading for a fourth and maybe for a fifth time, to each other. And that's how the best picture books are: they 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 and a love of the books themselves, of understanding narrative, of reading stories and also of telling stories themselves. You really can't ask for better than that. Oh, I just love Harry, I loved him when I was a child and my father used to read his stories to me, and I love him now I'm a mother and read his stories to my own children. Conor and Kieran love him too. There are more books about him, in case you didn't know, some available at Amazon. Our favourite of those others is No Roses for Harry which is about the little dogs attempt to rid himself of the present of an unwanted coat with an awful pattern of roses. It's very funny, and I'd recommend buying it too. Oh, just go and buy Harry books for your kids. 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. Everything Harry does, they do too. Like Mog, he's a child himself and he's all for a bit of naughty fun. Your children will see themselves in him and realise that straightaway. You should too.
Harry is a white dog with black spots who hates having a bath so much that he buries the scrubbing brush and runs away from home when he hears the bathtub filling. After spending the day having loads of fun and getting as dirty as he possibly can, Harry ends up a black dog with white spots and goes home to a family who doesn’t recognise him! Harry needs to come up with some ideas pretty quickly to convince his family that he’s really Harry – and when they don’t work he’s even desperate enough to beg for a bath! Although this book is fun for younger children as well, I find it has most appeal for children aged about 4 and up.
Did you ever meet a dog that actually wanted a bath? This one does, because his owners don't recognise him.