Horrible Harriet and the terrible tantrum by Leigh Hobbs

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Horrible Harriet (2003) was followed by Hooray for Horrible Harriet (2008) and Horrible Harriet’s inheritance, each firmly securing a place for this wonderful creation in the panorama of hilarious characters. Harriet has panache: she is boisterous and funny, ‘an amalgam of various bad girls’ Hobbs taught in schools, but also elicits our sympathy beneath the laughter she evokes. Her antics are wonderfully captured in pen and ink illustrations, coloured with gouache and acrylic paint, making a face to be reckoned with, a force that cannot stop.

In this new offering Harriet keeps her tantrum caged while she tries hard to be nice: she smiles a lot, takes flowers to others, is kind to her classmates and opens doors. Her smile is awesome, people are understandably perplexed. Her tantrum is itching to be released and one day it escapes. Harriet finds it in the classroom, sitting nicely in the front of the room. It puts on a show, playing tricks and doing daring deeds that the others watch in awe. Harriet is not amused and grabs it throwing it up into the air where it becomes attached to the ceiling. Harriet is back at centre stage and does tricks with the tantrum until they both fall to the ground. The teacher congratulates Harriet and the pair goes to bed that night with quite different thoughts. The tantrum sleeps, it can’t wait until tomorrow when it can go back to school and Harriet is so excited she cannot sleep.

What might happen? Probably not what you expect.

A very funny look at tempers and tantrums will elicit fun and games from the readers. They will recognise some of the behaviour shown by both Harriet and her temper, and laugh with her as she tries to control it, gasping at the lengths to which the temper goes to upset Harriet’s aim of being good. Beneath the humour lies a plea for our sympathy as Harriet tries her best to be good and cage her temper tantrum.

Themes: Temper, Humour, Behaviour.

Fran Knight