Reviewed by Magdalena Ball
Like Old Tom, television’s favourite and scruffiest cat, Horrible Harriet is one of life’s more interesting and less popular people. Hobbs excels in creating unusual characters and Harriet is no exception. She’s larger and stockier than her classmates, and tends to bully and intimidate the others. She lives in the attic of school, where she creates outrageous and unpalatable dishes. In her latest adventure, Harriet creates a new dish, Chicken Surprise, emphasis on the Surprise. Mr Chicken was invented to be Harriet’s friend, but she’s cooked up a little more than she can chew, because he’s even more horrible than Harriet. His manners are atrocious, he scares the other students and teachers, and worst of all, he keeps growing and growing. Fortunately Harriet knows just what to do, and when she takes care of Mr Chicken, she becomes the most popular girl at school, for a while at least.
Harriet isn’t your typical cute and cuddly heroine, and her desperation is actually quite sad, but for such a loud seemingly obnoxious bully, she is surprisingly endearing. Children will certainly enjoy reading about and listening to her adventures, and both parent and child will feel a surprising sense of relief as we did in the first CBC-shortlisted Horrible Harriet, when she goes back to being horrible. Hobbs’ drawings are as crazy and funny as always, and her simple facial expressions are amazingly evocative, as are those of the teachers and fellow students. I’m sure we all know someone just like Harriet. It’s also very funny indeed to have such a benign animal like the chicken (a plucked, cooked chicken no less) function as a frightening antagonist. Don’t be surprised if this book illicites a serious case of the giggles. Perhaps, like Hobbs, this book will help us to see that all children have unique characteristics and to remember not to take ourselves too seriously. Just watch out for those home-made chicken friends.
Horray for Horrible Harriet, by Leigh Hobbs Allen & Unwin, March 2005, ISBN 1741143357, HC, 32pages
This review first appeared at Preschool Entertainment. It appears here with permission.