“My name is Doug and I’m in third grade. I write about what happens in Room 3B, but this holiday story was the hardest one to write. Something was the matter with my best friend Harry. I can only come up with one way to describe him that month. Harry was in a daze.
“He didn’t flash his white teeth. He didn’t call Sid a squid. He wasn’t interested in things that were slimy, hairy, or creepy. And he didn’t seem to be in love with Song Lee anymore. Harry just wasn’t his horrible self.”
This is my first Horrible Harry book. Apparently, more than 10 Horrible Harry books have been published for the past years. There were also a few Song Lee books written by the same author.
The Horrible Harry series is a good chapter-book for beginning readers, even though Horrible Harry and the Holidaze is my only basis for saying so. This chapter book has a total of 68 pages coupled with illustrations by Frank Remkiewicz.
Holiday Spirit. Not considering the fact that this is another feature for our Pig Out Yuletide special, the title itself is a giveaway. Suzy Kline openly invites readers to one of the joyful subjects ever conceived: the holidays. I don’t read a lot of these types of books, so I don’t find the format very appealing. However, as I flipped through the pages, I realized that this is a very educational book for children. It introduces them to some of the holiday celebrations around the world. I’ve heard of Hanukkah but never really got the chance to read about it. After reading Horrible Harry and the Holidaze, I have become more familiar with holidays other than Christmas and New Year. Woohoo!!!
Three Kings’ Day. First one on the list is Three Kings’ Day, hosted by Dexter and his father Mr. Sanchez. Three Kings’ Day is celebrated all over Latin America, Spain, and other parts of Europe. When I was in the Philippines, I remember greeting people a ‘Happy Three Kings.’ Must be one and the same. The belief is that on the twelfth day after Christmas, the three wise men visit their house and bring gifts like Santa Claus does. But there are no stockings involved. Only shoes. Some leave shoes by their bed, but Dexter’s family leaves the shoes by the door. Also, instead of leaving milk and cookies for Santa, they leave nuts and a bucket of water for the wise men’s camels. Another feature of Three Kings’ Day is the crown cake. It has cherries and pineapples that look like crown jewels on top of a snowy icing. And it has a surprise baked inside the cake believed to bring luck for the rest of the year.
Kwanzaa. The second holiday, Kwanzaa, is presented by Ida and her mother Mrs Burrell. Kwanzaa is a celebration of African American heritage, created by Dr Maulana Karenga in 1966. Kwanzaa starts on December 26th and lasts for seven days. Each night they light a candle sitting on top of a candleholder called kinara. Seven candles in Kwanzaa colors: three red, three green, and one black in the middle, as in the picture. Kwanzaa is like Christmas because they exchange presents on the seventh day. These presents are usually homemade or hand-me-downs. However, unlike Christmas, Kwanzaa isn’t considered a religious holiday, but each family celebrates it in their own way.
Hanukkah. The third holiday in Miss Mackle’s class is Hanukkah, presented by Mary and her mother Mrs Berg. Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday celebrating the miracle of the oil lasting eight days in the temple. Fried foods like potato pancakes—latkes in Jewish—remind them of the oil miracle. (This reminds me of Lemony Snicket’s The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming.) The children in Miss Mackle’s class play a game called dreidel that involves gold-wrapped choclate coins called gelt. It’s like playing poker, according to Harry’s grandfather.
Korean New Year. The last holiday feature is the Korean New Year, as presented by Song Lee and her mother Mrs Park. Korean New Year is a means of honoring one’s ancestor. Children visit old family to show respect. Girls bow on one knee, boys on both knees. In celebrating the New Year, Korean children get dressed up in hanbok, a rainbow-colored suit made out of silk with a short jacket. During the celebration, the family plays a board game called yut (yoot). Each stick has four sides. Three curve, one flat. You toss the stick in the air and hope that it lands on the flat side. When it does, you move the token on the board. The family also flies kites on New Year, so one can only imagine how colorful it must be to see hanboks and kites all around.
Underlying Theme About Family. Horrible Harry and the Holidaze is more than just the different holiday celebrations across the globe. Doug had mentioned in the excerpt above how something is amiss with his best friend Harry. Readers eventually learn about Harry’s great-grandfather who has just moved to Shady Pines, a nursing home a few blocks away from their school. Harry wants nothing more than to visit great-grampa Sam and share the things he learned in school.
I thought it was bittersweet, and the subject is very close to my heart since I work in a convalescent hospital. It made me think of the residents who had to spend their holidays there, away from their families; others do not even have families to celebrate it with.
Teaching About Cultural Diversity. The strong point of Horrible Harry and the Holidaze is that it teaches children about cultural diversity. I find this relevant since America is known as a “melting pot” of cultures. It’s where you experience different cultures without really leaving the country. Cultural awareness and sensitivity help children become open to new experiences and recognize different cultural practices across the globe. These also allow them to become accepting of the way other people live. With this cultural knowledge in mind, children learn to function in a “multicultural” way.
Author Suzy Kline is a member of Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, PEN, New England Reading Association, Connecticut Education Association, and Torrington Education Association. She is well-known for her Herbie Jones series, Horrible Harry series, Song Lee series, Orp series, Molly Mander series, and Mary Marony series. She used to work as a graduate instructor in teaching children’s literature in the University of Connecticut.
Frank Remkiewicz started as a graphic artist. One of his first assignments was redesigning the Animal Crackers™ box. He also worked as a greeting card illustrator before becoming a children’s book illustrator. He is known for his characters in Jonathan London’s Froggy series as well as Suzy Kline’s Horrible Harry series. He has illustrated more than 60 books in his career and has also written a few of his own.
Suzy Kline biography at http://biography.jrank.org/pages/707/Kline-Suzy-1943.html
Frank Remkiewicz biography at http://www.tsl.state.tx.us/ld/projects/trc/2006/manual/aboutartist.html
Holiday descriptions taken from the book