Review of 13 Stories About Harris

13 Stories About Harris
by Amy Schwartz; illus. by the author
Preschool    Holiday    40 pp.    g
7/20    978-0-8234-4249-2    $18.99

Thirteen short stories follow city dweller Harris on preschooler-sized adventures. A very few seem geared toward adult sensibilities; most tap directly into authentic early-childhood behaviors and experiences. Harris, completely absorbed in his around-the-block sidewalk chalk drawing of a dragon, is surprised when he ends up back where he started. Dressed in his best, Harris attends best friend Ayana’s birthday party, where he happily becomes covered in chocolate. (Per the droll text, he “looked very nice” both before and after.) At Thanksgiving, Harris is, unrelentingly, a truck. “He was a truck all the way to his grandmother’s house. He was a truck while he ate turkey and gravy and mashed potatoes and peas.” Harris (pink-skinned with blond curls) and Ayana (brown-skinned with an afro puff) have fun at the beach, sharing sand castle–constructing, hole-digging, and socks — one pair polka-dot, one pair yellow with dinosaurs. Other stories involve a windy-autumn-day walk, imaginative play, and newborn hamsters. The shortest one, about a mishap with a toy, is economically told in just one sentence and via a highly effective page-turn: “Harris was standing on his truck and he shouldn’t have been.” Bright, clean, colorful illustrations are set against generous white space for maximum impact and appeal. Schwartz (see Oma and Bobo, 1987; What James Likes Best, rev. 5/03) has for decades been one of our most tuned-in, honest, and sympathetic chroniclers of childhood; here she is at her absolute best.

From the July/August 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Martha V. Parravano
Martha V. Parravano
Martha V. Parravano is book review editor of The Horn Book, Inc., and co-author of the Calling Caldecott blog.

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