Harriet Gets Carried Away

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
Harriet Gets Carried Away Book Poster Image
Fanciful story of birthday girl spirited away by penguins.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Animals featured: penguins, orcas, wolves, pigeons. City life pictured: riding subway, party on roof, laundromat, feeding pigeons in park, Statue of Liberty, skyline of lower Manhattan.

Positive Messages

Implicit message of inclusion and acceptance in story about multiracial family with two dads, plus Harriet has multiracial friend group. Girls can be adventurous and resourceful. When we have a problem, we can ask for help and others may help us. Costumes and trying on different identities is fun. Personality quirks can be accommodated by families and friends.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Harriet's a spirited, adventurous, and resourceful young girl of color. She has two dads, one white and one African American, and they're clearly a loving, caring family. The dads accommodate her whims to always dress in costume, and plan a nice birthday party for her. The friend group that attends their roof party is composed of kids and parents of various races. The dentist is female. Animal friends are helpful when she's trying to get back to New York City.

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Harriet Gets Carried Away by Jessie Sima (Not Quite Narwhal) is a book about a spirited and adventurous young girl of color who has two dads, one who appears to be white and the other African American. Harriet's quirk: She always dresses in costume, even when she goes to the dentist, so of course the birthday party she's planning will be a costume party. In the midst of shopping for party hats, she gets spirited away by penguins, but with a little help from her animal friends, she makes it back just in the nick of time for her party. Kids from multiracial or LGBTQ families will enjoy seeing themselves reflected, and city kids will recognize city scenes -- a roof party, riding on the subway. But kids of all stripes can enjoy the irrepressible Harriet, who's in the mold of beloved, active characters like Olivia and Eloise.

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Teen, 16 years old Written byCassandra8 June 12, 2018

Masked unscientific agenda

Seems to imply that you can get a bi-racial child from two men, one white, one black. This is scientifically untrue. My younger sister asked which one (of the... Continue reading

What's the story?

As we learn in the first line of HARRIET GETS CARRIED AWAY, "Harriet loved costumes," so of course she plans a dress-up party for her birthday. Her dads string lights and blow up balloons, Harriet changes into a penguin costume, and the three head off to pick up party supplies. At the store, Harriet discovers a group of penguins buying bags of ice, and decides to go along for the ride as they travel in hot air balloons to the penguins' icy home. Harriet tries to leave -- she can't be late for her party! -- and meets an orca who gives her a ride back to New York City. The party, complete with a trunk full of costumes for guests, is a wild success.

Is it any good?

In one seamless story, this book introduces an exuberant multiracial girl who has two dads, sends her on a fantastic hot-air balloon journey with penguins, and throws her a rollicking rooftop party. Harriet Gets Carried Away's inclusive values are all the more powerful because they're implicit. Author-illustrator Jessie Sima doesn't call particular attention to the fact that Harriet has two dads or that her family and friend group are multiracial; it's simply her accepted, everyday reality. The whimsical fantasy elements of the story are presented as equally unsurprising, and fun and adventurous.

The art's dominated by deep muted purples, and it's easier on the adult eye than Sima's previous book, Not Quite Narwhal, which was in glittery, unicorn-friendly pastels. Some pages have fun perspectives; for instance, a bird's-eye view of a street crossing, and a glimpse through a subway window that shows the dads only in torso. The dads are clearly caring, pictured with a gentle arm around their daughter as they steady her on the subway, and Harriet is just the sort of inventive, resourceful young girl who can serve as a strong model for readers.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the costumes in Harriet Gets Carried Away. How many different costumes does Harriet wear in the book? Do you like to wear costumes? What are your favorites?

  • What parts of the story seem real and what parts seem like fantasy? Why do you think Harriet meets penguins when she's in a penguin costume? Why do you think her friend Olivia arrives at the party with a pack of wolves?

  • How is city living different from living in the suburbs or country? What does the story show city people doing? Have you ever ridden a subway or had a party on a roof?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love picture books and strong girls

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