Judge Jim Thomas is not a dirty dog. Rotten scoundrel, perhaps, but not a dirty dog.
Our review of Harry The Dirty Dog And More Terrific Tails, published January 14th, 2004, is also available.
"Harry was a white dog with black spots who liked everything, except…getting a bath."
In elementary school, I lived for the day that we got the Scholastic Books catalog. Most of the time, my list started off including most of the books in the catalog; whittling the list down to something my parents would find palatable was always quite the chore. Not only is Scholastic still around, but they have gotten into the DVD business as well. By an almost Dickensian coincidence, just a few weeks ago my 8-year-old daughter, with her Scholastic catalog, assured me that Harry the Dirty Dog was her favorite book. After the arrival of this DVD, my daughter once again conferred on me the title of Best Dad Ever.
The disc, part of the Scholastic Storybook Treasures series, includes several animated shorts based on four popular Scholastic books. Two feature the aforementioned Harry, a good-natured beast who tries to avoid his bath in "Harry the Dirty Dog" and attempts to rid himself of an unwanted Christmas present in "No Roses for Harry." "Officer Buckle and Gloria" is about a policeman who gives safety lectures at schools, unaware that the reason his lectures are such a hit is because his dog acts out the safety tips behind him. "Dot the Fire Dog" is a simple story that introduces children to the basics of fire safety. The animation for all these shorts is based on the illustrations from the books, making it easy for children to transition from one medium to the other. These four shorts have a read-along option; in addition, there is also a Spanish version of "Harry the Dirty Dog," also with a read-along option.
There are two "bonus" shorts as well, though these don't have the read-along option. "I Want a Dog" is the charming tale of May, a little girl desperately trying to convince her parents to get her a dog. The story itself is clever—at one point, May ties some string to her roller skate and "walks" it around the neighborhood. (We are currently looking to get a dog; my daughter promptly started dragging a roller skate around the house.) Also, as May daydreams of having a dog, she sees a vision of her and a bunch of dogs at the lake—a vision curiously reminiscent of George Seurat's "Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte."
The final short, "Angus Lost" is perhaps the weak link. To begin with, it's a story (dog gets lost and makes its way home) we've all seen elsewhere. Moreover, it was filmed in 1982, and hasn't undergone any restoration, save perhaps the soundtrack. Each of the other shorts, though, has a curious charm all its own, whether it's Harry's wily attempts to avoid a bath, Gloria's rendition of safety tips (her impression of playing near a power line is right out of the Looney Tunes handbook), Dot's rescue of a kitten, or May's wheedling wiles. In addition, all of the animated shorts have pretty good musical accompaniment. The slightly jazzy tunes in the Harry shorts are not only good, but accentuate Harry's in-the-moment existence. The songs and animation in "I Want a Dog" so perfectly capture a child's singleminded devotion to a single goal that parents will enjoy it as well.
The read-along feature is a big plus. We read a lot in our house, and this offers a fun way to transition from you reading the book to them reading. Most of the stories are relatively low-key compared to most of the other popular kids' DVDs, so it might not get as many repeated viewings as, for instance, Little Einsteins, but it offers a good change of pace, which is just as important for the parents as it is for the children. Harry the Dirty Dog and Other Playful Puppy Stories is great fun, and I suspect I'll be picking up a few more Scholastic DVDs in the coming months, particularly now that our 4-year-old is starting to read. Not guilty.
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