Harry and the Jaggedy Daggers by Jan Fearnley is a picture book that my six year old son chose to read for this year’s summer reading challenge at our local library.
Jan Fearnley is perhaps best known for the perennially popular Mr. Wolf books. This is a departure from the format, and we thoroughly enjoyed it. My son rated it at three out of three stars, and I have to say I agree with him.
My son loved the pictures in the book, and after we had read it, he read it to himself again, and then came to talk to me about the pictures. It would be one of those books that could stand a good deal of re-reading without losing any of its initial appeal.
The book tells the story of Harry, a salty old sailor mouse who lives in Bottlenose Bay, taking passenger and cargo all over the island on his trusty boat; ‘The Big Cheese.’ On one terrible night there is an awful storm, and Harry’s boat is sent hurtling to its doom on the jaggedy daggers, some seriously menacing looking rocks, that smash the boat to pieces.
Harry is inconsolable. The sea is his life.
One day, while he is walking along the shore, he discovers an old, cracked tea cup and a rusty spoon.
He has a brain wave, and has soon turned them into a boat and a paddle that put him firmly back in business again. Some of his customers laugh at his boat, but Harry saves the day during another storm when Samina Songbird’s eggs get whisked out of the nest and perilously close to the jaggedy daggers. Harry’s boat is the only one nimble and small enough to survive the daggers, and he saves Samina’s eggs.
The illustrations are what make this story work so well. There are hundreds of beautiful details on every page that you can explore with your child, and which make the book richer and more and more fun to read and talk about.
Harry’s tea cup has the back stamp: ‘RMS Titanic’, which is a lovely touch. Houses at Bottlenose Bay are made out of recycled boxes, violins, handbags etc, and there are tons of creatures scuttling all over the pages getting on with their lives, ladybirds rolling barrels to the quay side, birds playing sitars in trees, creatures poking mischievously out of shells.
The book’s pages often take on the appearance of an antique map, and the thought and care that has gone into these illustrations make it an absolute delight of a book.
It is suitable for children aged 3-6, both boys and girls, and would be wonderful to teach with in small groups, so that the children can appreciate the detail in the pictures. It would make an excellent text to work alongside a project on pirates or the seaside. It would also be a lovely thing just to share with your children at home, or buy as a gift for a child.