Reviews /

Horrible Harriet and the Terrible Tantrum

Authored by Leigh Hobbs
Illustrated by Leigh Hobbs
Published by Allen and Unwin

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If you are known for being horrid, how on earth do you set about being good? Leigh Hobbs’ thoroughly anarchic anti-heroine finds herself bored of being bad in this, the fourth book in the series. Horrible Harriet is confident she can transform herself, as she has perfected her (truly alarming) ‘good girl smiles‘. But when all her best efforts fail, she throws (yes, throws) her Terrible Tantrum, with surprising results…

Leigh Hobbs’ quirky illustrations are a delight. Harriet herself, with her bold, simple outlines and hugely expressive face, is hilarious; I am sure many readers will instantly want to draw her for themselves. Similarly, the pictures of the Tantrum have a child-like quality as this three-eyed, six-limbed green monster seems to be almost iconic. I loved the range of emotions its three eyes expressed; my particular favourite was its puzzled disappointment as it dangled from the ceiling with Harriet gloating evilly beneath.

This is a very funny book; children will relish the humour. There may be some worthwhile discussions once you have read it. Harriet keeps her tantrum locked away, hidden from view, but she still does feed it and indeed pamper it. It is therefore ready for Harriet to throw when the situation requires. What happens when we hide our anger or our emotions? Harriet is bored of being bad but finds it very hard to change; her best efforts fail miserably. Why is it hard to change what people think of us?

But these conversations are maybe for later readings. On first encounter, simply enjoy the subversive humour. Text and illustrations work together to create a book that is wonderful to read aloud and children will enjoy spotting details like Harriet reading Horrible Harriet on several of the pages. They will also laugh at the hapless Mr Boggle, oblivious to the chaos and the mischief going on all around him and benignly convinced that Harriet is a good girl. She is certainly not that – Leigh Hobbs has called her an “amalgam” of mischievous girls he has taught. But she is vibrant, exuberant and thoroughly entertaining; this is a book that will make children and adults alike want to seek out more of Leigh Hobbs’ work.