Harry by the Sea

Book review by
Linda Rahm-Crites, Common Sense Media
Harry by the Sea Book Poster Image
An appealing main character and plenty of action.

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What parents need to know

Parents need to know that an appealing main character and plenty of action (reinforced by the lively illustrations) power this story along, keeping children involved in the narrative language and resolution of the story conflict. This tale of mistakes (and mistaken identity) will elicit out-loud laughter, while Margaret Bloy Graham's deceptively simple, softly colored drawings emphasize the humor.

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What's the story?

Harry the dog likes the seashore, except the heat. Harry's human family likes everything about Harry, except his tendency to crowd their beach umbrella and wreck their sandcastles.

As Harry sits alone by the water's edge, a big wave crashes over him, leaving him covered with seaweed and looking like "something from the bottom of the sea." Now Harry is cool and comfortable--and completely oblivious to the terrifying sight he presents as he runs from one identical striped beach umbrella to another, searching for his family.

Just as Harry is about to be captured and taken to the aquarium as a Bushy-backed Sea Slug, everyone is happily reunited at a hot-dog stand. For their next trip to the seaside, Harry's family buys a brand-new beach umbrella: big enough to cover everyone--including Harry--and easy for Harry to find, because, like him, it's white with black spots.

Is it any good?

From a hot dog (Harry) to a hot-dog stand, HARRY BY THE SEA captures not only the fun but also the potential mishaps of a family outing to the seaside. Any child who has ever been lost in a crowd will identify with Harry's attempt to find his family amid the almost indistinguishable humans on the beach. The text softens Harry's plight by giving the panic to the people, who think Harry is a scary sea monster, and by reassurances that his family has been searching for him, too.

Humorous touches -- both textual and visual -- abound, such as the expressions and gestures of illustrator Margaret Bloy Graham's bathers and Harry's mistaking the hot-dog man's cry of "Hurry! Hurry! Hurry!" for "Harry! Harry! Harry!" A big orange sun shines down in every one of Graham's illustrations, making the crowded beach setting cheery. Children love Graham's drawings, but adults will also appreciate a certain satiric edge in her portrayal of humans' herdlike behavior.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what to do if a child gets lost. What steps can you take to find your parents again? How did Harry handle the situation? What did he do right? And what could he have done differently that might have reunited him with his family sooner?

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