Demonstrating her deep understanding of the preschooler mind, Amy Schwartz’s charming 13 Stories About Harris delivers exactly what its title promises: 13 stories about a child named Harris, though his best friend Ayana figures prominently, too.
These are miniature domestic dramas; the longest story spans four pages, and a very funny one (“ ‘That’s why they call permanent markers permanent,’ Harris’s mother said.”) is just a single page. Most center on Harris’ imaginative play. In one, he draws an exceptionally long dragon’s tail on the sidewalk; in another, he and Ayana role-play worms “taking over the world” by jumping around in their pillowcases. Harris also makes butter with his mother, goes on play dates with Ayana, visits his preschool and more.
There’s a lot of humor here, much of it understated, as when Harris and his mother pet sit for Stanley, Ayana’s hamster, only to discover six baby hamsters in the cage. Another reads, “Harris was standing on his truck and he shouldn’t have been,” then wordlessly reveals the consequences of Harris’ actions after the page turn. The final story, in which Harris and Ayana declare they will hold hands “forever and ever,” wraps it all up on a tender note.
The illustrations are classic Schwartz, with finely drawn, carefully composed vignettes in vivid colors of children at play. The stories’ pacing varies, but each one gets it just right. Schwartz knows when to let her illustrations speak for themselves, such as Harris’ woeful fall from his toy truck, giving readers an opportunity to put two and two together. Put 13 Stories About Harris into the hands of young readers ready for a baker’s dozen of whimsical tales.