This book introduces Horrid Henry, wildly popular fictional hero in the UK, to American readers. If my children are any judge of the matter, Henry will be just as popular here in the United States.
Henry lives with his mother and father and his little brother, Perfect Peter. Henry's parents are rather ineffectual and unimaginative, typically responding to Henry's misbehavior with a chiding, "Don't be horrible, Henry." Perfect Peter seems like sweet kid at first, but he's such a suck-up that we quickly found ourselves rooting for Henry, who might act horribly at times, but he usually has reason to (not that it justifies his actions, but it does make the stories funny!).
The opening story won my heart. Harry wonders what life would be like if he behaved for a change. Every time he's tempted to do what he usually does (knock down his brother's block tower, refuse to eat his vegetables, shirk his chores), he catches himself and does the opposite. Soon the entire family dynamic is thrown upside down, with disastrously hilarious results. The reader is left to muse along with Henry: Who knew that being good could be so much fun?
This book includes four separate stories, which make for great read-alouds, as each section reaches its own satisfying conclusion. This is a great transitional book, perfect for those children who are ready to move beyond traditional easy readers and onto big-kid chapter books, but who are still daunted by large blocks of text and prefer lots of illustrations to help them decode the more difficult passages. The writing is spare and simple, and the pictures are whimsical and appealing. I am so pleased to have this series to recommend to young readers at my library. They are sure to come back, demanding more. (I love when that happens - it's the best part of my job.) And luckily there are a ton of Horrible Harry stories out there to fill that demand.
I usually put a list of the books in a series here, but there are way too many in different formats to make it worth my time. Instead, if you're interested, check out Francesca Simon's website. The Horrid Henry website is also a lot of fun!
Horrid Henry by Francesca Simon; illustrated by Tony Ross (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2009; originally published in the UK in 1994)
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Becky's Book Reviews: "I think the thing that I love best about Henry is his voice. Francesca Simon gets what it means to be a kid, to think like a kid, to talk like a kid, to act like a kid. Everything is just so right."
Diary of an Eccentric: "Don't expect to find any role models in these books, though. Horrid Henry is the brattiest kid I've ever come across in books, and Perfect Peter is a bit over the top. But that's what makes them funny."