Horrible Harry Series

Book review by
Carrie Kingsley, Common Sense Media
Horrible Harry Series Book Poster Image
Fun tales of impish jokester's sweet adventures with pals.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

The Horrible Harry books have varying amounts of science, history, and other academic content based on what's happening in Harry's classroom, and, since readers are likely the same age as Harry and his friends, they can relate to the social and emotional lessons here, too. 

Positive Messages

Despite his nickname, Harry really does try to be a good person, as do all the kids in his class. There's an emphasis on being inclusive and helping others, and every book is a lesson on doing the right thing.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The kids in Room 2B (and later 3B) have no shortage of adults as positive role models: their teacher, principal, librarian, and all the adults in their town. The kids themselves are good role models for navigating friendships and social pressure.

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the star of Suzy Kline's Horrible Harry series isn't so horrible. In fact, Harry's more of an imp than a troublemaker -- especially in the later books. His escapades aren't about causing trouble, they're about exploring, having fun, and following his interests, even when that involves sneaking around. He slips under the school fence to his secret hideout so he can think in a tree and explore nature, not to cause trouble or skip school. Most often, Harry finds himself in a jam when he's trying to do something nice for someone else. He has a good heart, a sarcastic and joke-filled brain, and a huge capacity to care.  

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What's the story?

In HORRIBLE HARRY, young Harry gets into trouble and is more "horrible" early in the series; after a handful of books, he's evolved from a mean-ish kid some readers wouldn't like into good-hearted rascal it's hard not to love. The stories are narrated by Harry's best friend Doug, and follow the kids in Miss Mackle's South School class through art contests, new students, a wedding, a lice infestation, and more. The stories are sweet and told in a conversational "kid" style that isn't dumbed down. These books focus on aspects of everyday life that kids experience, both in the classroom and in the outside world with their families.

Is it any good?

This series is big on compassion and forgiveness, and showing that an independent streak doesn't always mean trouble if it's paired with a good heart. The Horrible Harry series doesn't go overboard on any lesson: Harry develops a crush on a girl, one that's sustained for many books but is never overdone with swooning and over-the-top gestures readers wouldn't relate to. The book about lice at school is particularly compassionate, as the kids at South School learn that getting lice is common and not something to be embarrassed about.

This series is a funny, mischievous way of focusing on doing good things and being a good person, and reminding readers that gross jokes are sometimes extra funny.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Horrible Harry and his friends often break the rules but don't get in much trouble because their motivation isn't mischief, it's being helpful or going on an adventure. Does the reason you break the rules matter?

  • Do you have the same kinds of kids in your classroom that Harry has in his? Who is most like Harry, Doug, Mary, and Song in your class? Do you think your "Harry" is as kindhearted as this one?

  • What do you think of the way the adults in Harry's world respond to his mischief?

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