By Terri Schlichenmeyer
“Harriet Gets Carried Away” by Jessie Sima
c.2018, Simon & Schuster
$17.99 / $23.99 Canada
You love wearing your daddy’s shoes.
You wear mommy’s shoes, too. You love that clomping around, the wiggly-wobbly feel, and the fun of pretending that you’re someone else. Dressing up is great but be careful. As in the new book, “Harriet Gets Carried Away” by Jessie Sima, things could quickly get out of hand.
More than almost anything in the world, Harriet loved playing dress-up.
She had a whole trunk full of costumes and she didn’t need a reason to wear them. She just did, as often as possible and everywhere she went. Every dentist appointment, every day in the park, every birthday party.
And so, on the day of her own birthday party, Harriet was dressed as a “busy bee” and she certainly was busy helping her dad with the decorations. But before their guests arrived, they would need to buy snacks and party hats, so Harriet changed into her “extra-special errand-running costume.” It was her penguin outfit and when she was done, they took the subway to the store.
Once they were there, Harriet’s dad hurried to the deli counter, so Harriet waddled off to find the best party hats. She knew where they were but between deli and derby, she found “something else.”
There were penguins! Dozens of them that looked just like Harriet in her black and white penguin costume, and they were apparently getting ready for a party of their own! They barely noticed that a little girl was in their midst; they just kept buying ice and taking it to a big balloon outside in the park. One of them told Harriet that they were going “back home” because the city was “a nice place to visit” but penguins didn’t want to live there — and they took her with them!
Or, well, they tried, anyway, but Harriet didn’t want to live the rest of her life on ice, she missed her dad, and she didn’t want to miss her birthday party. But there was a problem: how would a little girl in a penguin costume ever manage to get home?
There are two ways of looking at “Harriet Gets Carried Away.” Only one is good.
On one hand, this is a cute book that will appeal to a preschooler’s imagination, with its theme of dress-up and make-believe. Harriet is a confident little girl who isn’t one bit fazed by the adventure that her costume causes, and kids will get a kick out of the places she goes because she was mistaken as someone she isn’t. That kind of pretending is what preschoolers do best, and that makes this book relatable.
On the other hand, parents may have to take a deep breath and put aside their reservations about unsupervised kids in big-city stores, and the issues of them going somewhere with someone they don’t know.
The take-away here is to be aware of your audience: for some kids, the caution may be warranted and the book postponed. For other 4-to-8-year-olds, “Harriet Gets Carried Away” may be an enjoyment shoo-in.