Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Reader's Diary #919- Suzy Kline, illustrations by Frank Remkiewicz: Horrible Harry and the Christmas Surprise

Horrible Harry and the Christmas Surprise is part of the Horrible Harry series by Suzy Kline. It's a popular series used in schools to teach reading, as they are aimed at younger readers and the vocabulary and sentence structure are usually simple. With over 30 titles churned out since the series began in 1988, one would assume that the series is at least somewhat popular and that the quality might lie somewhere in the mediocre range. One would be correct. Horrible Harry and the Christmas Surprise is no exception.

One thing I did like about the book was that it was told from another student, Doug's, perspective. You'd expect perhaps to have it told from Harry himself or by an omniscient, non-existent narrator. Doug shares a voice with the readers that the book is aimed at, trying to pick sense in Harry, who's perhaps not always the best behaved, who's slightly odd, but who's ultimately a good kid. Of course, this lends itself well to a Christmas story, as finding the good in everyone is such a hopeful, optimistic premise.

In this particular book, Miss Mackle, Harry's teacher winds up in the hospital just before Christmas (you can guess why from the cover picture). What will this mean for their Christmas play? And just what kind of horrible gift is Harry planning for Miss Mackle? Again, it's safe and not the most exciting premise in the world, but it leaves room for a few laughs and some positive messages.

The book feels somewhat old fashioned, however. Perhaps it was the male principal and female primary teacher. (Not that that isn't still the norm.) Perhaps it was the inexplicable record player in the classroom, even though the book was published in '91. But if you imagine it's set in the 70s, it works, plus you might get some of those nostalgic Christmas vibes.


Barbara Bruederlin said...

Maybe the addition of a leg lamp would have saved this book.

John Mutford said...

Barbara: Have you seen A Christmas Story 2? A leg lamp won't save everything :(