A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
- Happy birthday Joan Elma Rahn (Plants That Changed History), Mona Kerby (Owney, The Mail-Pouch Pooch), and David Wiesner (Tuesday, Art and Max).
- Itâ€™s the birth date of Patricia Lauber (1924â€“2010), Volcano: The Eruption and Healing of Mount St. Helens.
- Happy birthday to baseball legend Hank Aaron. Read Hank Aaron: Brave In Every Way by Peter Golenbock, illustrated by Paul Lee.
- Those of us with a little chocolate hazelnut spread addiction will be happy to celebrate World Nutella Day. Read After the Wreck, I Picked Myself Up, Spread My Wings, and Flew Away by Joyce Carol Oates.
Today for childrenâ€™s authors and artists week, Iâ€™d like to honor a nonagenarian who published her first childrenâ€™s book sixty years ago, Margaret Bloy Graham. Born in Canada, Margaret moved to New York in the 1940s to work as a commercial illustrator. During that time she became good friends with two other U.S. immigrants, Hans and Margret Rey, creators of Curious George, and in 1948 married Gene Zion. Because Margaret wanted to illustrate childrenâ€™s books, Hans showed her how to put together an art portfolio, and Margret encouraged legendary Harper & Row editor Ursula Nordstrom to take a look. Nordstrom liked what she saw. So did the rest of the childrenâ€™s book community, because Margaretâ€™s first two picture books, one written by her husband Gene Zion (All Falling Down) and one by Charlotte Zolotow (The Storm Book) both won Caldecott Honors.
Margaret and Gene would become known for another text that he wrote in a short period of time, one he gave to Margaret when she came back from shopping one day. Margaret read it and exclaimed, â€śThis will keep us.â€ť She knew immediately that not only was the text for Harry the Dirty Dog delightful, but it naturally suggested very compelling visual material. It is still hard for me to believe that one of the doggiest dogs in the cannon of childrenâ€™s books was created by someone who did not live with oneâ€”but such was the case. Grahamâ€™s aunt, however, had both Aberdeen and Sealyham terriers, and Graham developed Harryâ€”short legs, long body, big head, and white dog with black spotsâ€”as a combination of these two dogs.
In the beginning of Harry the Dirty Dog, we meet our hero, Harry, scurrying down the front steps, carrying his scrubbing brush out of the house because he hears the bath water running in the tub. Like many of his canine counterparts, Harry hates taking a bath. So Harry buries the brush in the back yard and sets out for a day of mischief, even sliding down the coal chute. This turns him into a dirty dog, one unrecognizable to his family. Still the book has a happy ending, and in the final scene we see Harry, clean, with his scrubbing brush hidden under his pillow. Harry may not really have reformed all that much.
The book was followed by sequels, No Roses for Harry! and Harry by the Sea, and in 2002 Graham went back to her classic and created new artwork for the book, one that retains all the charm of the original but provides more color than the printing process made possible in the 1950s. Tastefully executed, this new edition reminds everyone who reads it why the book has been in print for fifty-five years.
One day, walking my own dirty dogs, I was stopped by a grandfather who had just purchased Harry the Dirty Dog as a Christmas present for his grandson. In the first day, the boy had asked his mother to read it twenty-five times! With a perfect story arc, succinct narrative line, and art that extends the text, the book can, indeed, be read again and again, only increasing everyoneâ€™s laughter.
Iâ€™m so grateful for this bookâ€”and even more grateful that Margaret Bloy Graham lives a few towns away from me. Thank you Margaret for Harry and for being part of the childrenâ€™s book community for sixty years.
Originally posted February 5, 2011. Updated for .