Each Thursday I’ll be featuring a book that my parents *could* have read to me as a toddler (spoiler alert: I’m no spring chicken), so we will go with a publication date of 1989 or earlier; all books must still be in print as of my writing.
Title/author: Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion, illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham
Copyright date: 1956
Plot in a Sentence (or two): Harry hates baths, so one day before bathtime he runs away; he has an exciting, messy day around town before heading home, where he finds his family doesn’t even recognize him covered in dirt!
Why It’s Timeless: I remember my grandmother reading this book to me and can still feel the drama I felt sitting on her lap, yelling at the family “but it’s Harry! It’s Harry!” Reading this to Toddler Bookworm now, he enjoys watching the white dog with black spots become a black dog with white spots, having an enviable messy time. This dog seems quite a bit like my toddler, finding adventures whose outcomes often require a good bath! Harry even finds some construction equipment and a train! If that’s not a recipe for a perfect toddler day, I don’t know what is! The message here is sweet and worth pointing out: even at our messiest, we are loved and accepted by our family.
While You’re Reading: Readers will enjoy watching the transformation of Harry from white dog to black dog as he gets dirtier and dirtier. The pictures lend themselves to an “I spy” that shouldn’t need any prompting; be sure to pause to allow your readers to find Harry in each spread as he is hidden in the action of the illustrations.
Just for Fun: There is a sweet video of Betty White reading Harry the Dirty Dog on Storyline Online if you’re into that sort of thing.
There are four Harry books altogether, including Harry & the Lady Next Door, Harry by the Sea, and No Roses for Harry. Illustrator Margaret Bloy Graham won the Caldecott Award TWICE, including the 1952 award for All Falling Down, written by Gene Zion!
This post contains affiliate links; the Harry books should be readily available at your local library as well!