I had my doubts about any book starring a character called “Horrible Harry,” but at least in Horrible Harry and the Kickball Wedding, Harry isn’t really all that horrible. He’s a bit of a prankster and he prefers to be the center of attention, but he’s actually kind of sensitive and figures out how to solve a friend’s problem without embarrassing the friend.
Sidney has been making annoying jokes—every time someone says they love something, Sidney says, “Then why don’t you marry it?” When Harry learns that Sidney is making these jokes because his mom is getting married this weekend and Sidney really doesn’t know what to think about it, Harry decides he needs to do something to get Sidney more comfortable with the idea of the wedding (admittedly this does nothing to deal with the fact that Sidney barely seems to know this guy his mom is marrying, but…well, that’s something Sidney and his mom will have to deal with). Sidney is carrying around invitations to the wedding for all his friends, but he’s been unable to bring himself to hand them out.
Harry asks Song Lee, a fellow 2nd grader he has a crush on, to marry him. After asking her mother and assuring herself it’s not a real wedding, Song Lee agrees. The whole class gets into preparing for the wedding, and even though it falls apart when the bride and groom run off to play kickball mid-way through the ceremony, Sidney realizes that maybe his mom’s wedding will be ok, too. He hands out the invitations and basks in the excitement of his friends, some of whom have never been to a wedding before.
It’s a cute story of 2nd grade problem solving, and the supposedly horrible Harry is a good friend and a creative problem solver.
SPOILER ALERT: Things you might want to know before suggesting this to your kid
OK, I actually already spoiled the whole plot. Ah, well.
Harry, annoyed that Sidney keeps suggesting he marry things, hides behind a bush after school. He jumps out when Sidney walks by and…tickles him. Which Sidney finds funny. Until he starts to cry about the wedding that has him so upset, so the truth is finally out there so his friends can help him. What seems like almost typical bully behavior really isn’t.
Mary is a pretty typical girly-girl—she hates bugs, she loves romance and weddings and Valentine’s Day. Not a lot of depth here, but she’s also not really shut out of things or looked down on. This pretend wedding is the perfect thing to get her involved with the other kids.
Song Lee loves bugs and is great at kickball. She also brings in a lace veil for the wedding that her mom helped her make. Harry has a huge crush on her, but treats her with respect rather than teasing her. There are hints of depth to her character (and it turns out she has her own series, starting with Song Lee in Room 2B).
Sidney’s mom wants him to be involved with the wedding. He’s the ringbearer and she gives him invitations to invite his friends—she doesn’t send them to the friends’ parents, so this is very much Sidney having some control and real involvement.
Harry and Song Lee have bugs and spiders as part of their wedding ceremony. Even though they leave in the midst of it to play kickball, Harry later gives Song Lee a plastic spider ring. According to 2nd grade rules, they did get married.
Both of these weddings are happening on the terms of the people involved, and not according to what would be traditional.
Song Lee grew up in Korea. She remembers the big insects from there, much to Harry’s delight. Her speech is a little stilted in how it’s written—I don’t know enough to know if it’s relatively accurate or relying on a stereotype.
This barely qualifies as a chapter book—50 pages broken into 5 sections—but it’s a good start for newly independent readers. I’m not sure why “horrible” is used so much, because Harry really isn’t horrible; it’s possible that this title kept me from even looking at it when my kids were the right age. Overall, it’s a good option in the selection of books available for very newly independent readers—a selection I feel frequently underestimates kids and relies too much on slapsticky humor. It’s part of a series, but I had no real problem jumping in on what I think is the 6th book in the series. It seems like you can read them in almost any order.