Harry and the Lady Next Door by Gene Zion

 

Harry and the lady next doorChildrenHarry and the Lady Next DoorGene Zion; HarperFestival 1999WorldCat

Illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham

Review by Molly

Poor Harry. Everything was going so well, until a new lady moved next door. Harry likes ladies, no problem there. But this new lady is an opera singer. And she has moved into the house right next to Harry’s. And, she practices. She practices all day long. She sings loud and she sings high. Really, really high. And she sings really, really loud.

The lady next door can sing louder than screaming cats, and the peanut vendor’s whistle. She can even sing louder than a fire engine siren. Poor Harry, that singing hurts his ears. Harry does not like the tone. The tone is just too high and it is just too loud.

Harry is determined to silence the lady next door. He bites the piano leg, he howls, he herds cows. Maybe if the lady hears the lovely L-O-W sounds cows make she will begin to sing the same low tones. That doesn’t work. He brings a band, the tuba makes a lovely low sound. Nothing works. At last he steals the lady’s music only to discover that the lady does not need the music, she keeps right on singing.

At last the lady wins a contest and is offered an opportunity to study opera far, far away. Harry and his family go with the lady to say goodbye when she sets off in a big ship. As her ship sets sail, Harry can hear her singing. And then the ship’s foghorn sounds. Harry was ecstatic, he thought it to be the most beautiful good-bye song he had ever heard!

Harry and the Lady Next Door (An I Can Read Picture Book) is another in our collection of Harry books. Fifteen pairs of bright eyes fill with delight as my resident critics hurry to get ready for “reading on the rug.” Harry and the Lady Next Door has been staple in my K-1 classroom from the first weeks when I began teaching in California some twenty years ago. The children loved it then, they love it now.

As a teacher, I particularly like the Harry books because the narrative presents Harry in a ticklish situation he works to solve, illustrations are low key and child friendly, no fussy over detailed or too bright images, in addition to a vocabulary aimed at beginning reader/listeners.

Pictures are full of activity without being over drawn or excessively detailed. Images are created using straight forward, high-spirited strokes. Milieu are calm and indistinct with ample white space on the page. Children’s eyes are drawn immediately to Harry and his endeavors. Children follow the narrative through listening and images, the book works well for discussion after the reading is finished; as well as for reading again as children tell the story to themselves from the illustrations.

Harry and the Lady Next Door finds our beloved white dog with the black spots Harry, up to his ears in misery. My resident critics follow the tale with rapt attention, even though we have read the story before and they know what is coming their attention does not waver as they crowd close and ‘talk’ the story with me. Each scheme Harry comes up to get the lady to stop singing so high and so loud is met with peals of giggles. The kids are charmed by the witty antics of this endearing dog.

I like the discussions which ensue as the children have become more articulate and able to verbalize that Harry’s actions are not motivated from naughtiness, or a mean spirit, rather he is trying to first persuade the lady to just stop, and then after he realizes that lower tones do not hurt his ears, to change her mode of singing. He herds the cows and the band toward the lady’s house in his effort to show her that lower tones are nicer than high, shrill ones.

Harry and the Lady Next Door gives the class the opportunity to discuss how and why BIG loud voices in the classrooms can cause us problems just as the lady and her shrill, loud voice caused problems for Harry.

Thirty thumbs up from 15 bright eyed first graders in Osage County, Oklahoma. Harry and the Lady Next Door is a good choice for children’s pleasure reading, as well as belonging on the classroom reading shelf, the school and public library list and for homeschoolers reading offerings.

More books by Gene Zion

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