Betty White reading Harry the Dirty Dog! What a treat! First published in 1956, this book, written by Gene Zion and illustrated by his wife at the time, Margaret Bloy Graham, has been delighting young children ever since. Not fond of baths, Harry hides the scrub brush and takes off. During his adventures he becomes dirtier and dirtier until the white dog with black spots turns into a black dog with white spots. Back home his family doesn't recognize him, not even when Harry performs his famous flipping tricks. (Side note: What is wrong with this family?) Harry solves the problem by unearthing the scrub brush and getting the kids to give him a bath. (Side note 2: So these kids are willing to bathe some strange dog?) When a clean and recognizable Harry emerges from the bath water, there is much rejoicing.
More Harry stories followed, including Harry by the Sea and Harry and the Lady Next Door, the one true early reader. My hands-down favorite, though, is No Roses for Harry! I enjoyed reading this book as a child and twenty-odd years later so did my daughter. She especially related to the story because, like Harry, she had a beloved grandmother who sent her clothes she often didn't like to wear. She claimed they itched. I suspected they were way too fancy for her taste (and mine).
Harry's gift is a woolen sweater with roses on it. "Harry didn't like it the moment he saw it. He didn't like the roses." Harry's solution is to lose the sweater, but each time he thinks he has succeeded in ditching it, someone returns it. Then Harry notices a loose stitch in the sweater and begins pulling on it. Soon he has managed to pull out a long string of wool. That's when a bird swoops down and finishes the job, unravelling the sweater before Harry's astonished eyes. When Grandma turns up for a visit, the family searches and searches for the sweater,. Of course they can't find it. That's when Harry leads them to the park and proudly shows a bird in a nest woven with the wool from the sweater. The remarkable bird has even recreated the roses! The story ends with Harry receiving a new sweater for Christmas--a white one with black spots--that he truly likes.