“Love every leaf, every ray of light
Love the animals, love the plants
Love each separate thing,
Loving all, you will perceive the mystery of God in all.”
I loved being a school teacher for 27 years. Mostly, I taught second and third grade which is the setting for my school stories about Horrible Harry and his friends. I enjoyed reading books aloud, writing with my students, and especially teaching science. Many of Harry’s adventures come from my real life experiences in the classroom. I am very much like Miss Mackle, Harry’s teacher. We grew monarch butterflies from eggs, observed ant behavior in ant farms, cried when Charlotte died in Charlotte’s Web, had a terrarium in class for visiting salamanders and garter snakes, as well as tanks for fish and frogs, and kept a hamster cage. We learned so much by just taking care of these magnificent creatures and from observing them!
All the characters in my stories are based on real people from my class. And Harry, well, he was inspired by one particular student I had. That year, I had to go to bed an hour earlier because I needed extra patience to deal with him. But his interest in science inspired us all, although it got him in trouble sometimes. Once he even left the playground by crawling through the hole in our school fence—he went into the empty lot next door looking for wild mushrooms!
The very first Horrible Harry in Room 2B came out in 1988, which means Harry has been in second or third grade for twenty-five years now. Since that time, Harry has been fascinated with…
Charles, his pet spider… Edward, his pet earwig… Tasmanian devils… vultures… night crawlers… frogs and beetles… Goog, his one-eyed cat… ants… Stinkhorn mushrooms… and even canaries!
What mellows Harry’s character is that even though he is impulsive, doesn’t follow directions, and can be very gross, he loves nature, and takes very good care of his pets. In one book, Harry’s pet earwig dies. This is the scene where Harry and his friends decide to have a funeral for him. Doug is the narrator:
We followed Harry out to the backyard. He dug a hole in one corner of the garden. He placed the tissue with Edward in it inside the hole. We watched him sprinkle dirt on top until he made a mound. Harry then patted it with the palm of his hand. Song Lee found three little rocks and placed them on top. Mary added some blades of grass. Ida added a few sticks.
“We should say a prayer,” I said.
“Yeah,” Harry agreed. “Will you say one, Song Lee?”
Song Lee nodded, then spoke very softly. “Dear God, help us love every living thing.”
“Amen,” we all said.
Keep caring about every living thing and celebrate Earth Day!
Suzy Kline is the author of nearly 50 best-selling books for young readers. In addition to the Horrible Harry series, she also writes the Herbie Jones and Song Lee series, among others. Suzy promotes Reader’s Theatre and creates science–based classroom activities that can be explored alongside with her books at www.suzykline.com.