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Harry The Dirty Dog vs. Dirty, The Hairy Dog

November 10, 2021

I remember reading Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion and Margaret Bloy Graham when I was a kid. Even back then, I knew there wasn’t much to it. Harry The Dirty Dog didn’t inspire my imagination like some Dr. Seuss books or Where the Wild Things Are or Harold and the Purple Crayon.

But it was still an okay book, I guess. It’s stood the test of time; I still occasionally see Harry the Dirty Dog in bookstores.

On the other hand, Dirty, the Hairy Dog never got published.

When I was in high school, our English teacher had us students create our own children’s books, and then we were going to read them to a class of 1st graders at the nearest elementary school. My children’s book idea was Dirty, The Hairy Dog. Of course, Dirty was very hairy, which caused his owners some grief, but it made the dog easy to draw. All I had to do was pencil and ink a ball of hair with four legs sticking out.

Unfortunately, Dirty had a dirty mind and some dirty thoughts that were accompanied with dirty word balloons, and the rough draft of the book had a few double entendre dirty jokes that elementary school kids probably wouldn’t get. My English teacher, however, understood the double entendre dirty jokes and shut down my project. He didn’t get mad; he just strongly suggested that I go in a different direction if I wanted a good grade.

I understood. I’d gotten a few laughs from my friends about it, and I half-heartedly put together something stupid but suitable for a general audience. I scribbled something dumb like Bobby the Balloon. Balloons were easy to draw and color, and the book was kid friendly, but it wasn’t worth saving.

Looking back, Dirty, the Hairy Dog wasn’t a bad idea. It was kind of like Ted (the movie), but decades before Ted. I hate it when I’m ahead of my time and nobody notices.

The children’s book assignment should have been easy for me, but it wasn’t. Children’s books are more difficult to write than people think. I know people think children’s books are easy because every celebrity who wants to be thought of as a literary genius tries writing a children’s book at some point, and they almost all suck.

I sympathize. Bobby the Balloon sucked. But I was kind of forced into Bobby The Balloon.

I know I was onto something with Dirty, the Hairy Dog. The intentionally inappropriate children’s book is a cheap way to sell books nowadays. A few years ago Go The F*ck To Sleep was a giant hit in publishing. It was designed to look like a children’s book, but it had lots of profanity. I’ve felt a bit of resentment towards that book. If Go The F*ck To Sleep was allowed to be published, I should have been able to produce Dirty, the Hairy Dog.

I admit, the illustrations in Go The F*ck To Sleep were way better than my illustrations for Dirty, the Hairy Dog, but I didn’t rely on the same joke over and over and over again, like the author of Go The F*ck To Sleep did. Once you’ve read the title of Go The F*ck To Sleep, you’ve already read the book.

At least Dirty, the Hairy Dog would have had original content between the covers. And most children could have read Dirty, the Hairy Dog without knowing that it was dirty. If a 1st grader had understood the dirty humor in Dirty, the Hairy Dog, that wouldn’t have been my fault. I would have blamed the parents. Or better yet, blame the schools. When given the opportunity, always blame the schools.

I’m not still bitter about Dirty, the Hairy Dog. I’m just pointing out my former bitterness. It’s okay to talk about former bitterness in order to show your own personal growth.

I’m reading Harry the Dirty Dog again. I’m in the middle of it now. It shouldn’t take me too long. I can probably finish it by the end of the day. It’s not like reading Finnegans Wake.

The illustrations in Harry the Dirty Dog are okay but bland. There isn’t any rhyming. It’s not very colorful. The story isn’t imaginative. It DOES have a happy ending, though. I don’t see the big deal behind this book. Maybe the author bl… knew the publisher or something. I’ve heard that stuff like that happens.

From → Literary Combat

  1. I read your “when given the opportunity, always blame the schools” comment a little differently now that I know you’re a (retired) teacher. I laughed and laughed.

    • I don’t know. Even if I hadn’t been a teacher, I might still blame the schools. When you blame the parents, they get mad and defensive. When you blame the schools, they can’t really react too much.

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