Sharing books… No Roses for Harry

Penny Tassoni
Monday, October 15, 2018

Penny Tassoni has ideas for sharing a much-loved book

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No Roses for Harry by Gene Zion and Margaret Bloy Graham is a much-loved book from the late 1950s and is still available. Harry is a black-and-white dog who lives with two children. Their grandmother has knitted a sweater for Harry that has roses on it. While the family loves it, Harry does not. His feeling that it makes him look silly is confirmed by the reaction of people and other dogs when the family goes shopping.

Harry starts to look for ways to ‘lose’ the sweater. He leaves it behind in the pet shop, tucks it under a shopping trolley in the grocery store and finally leaves it alongside a plant in the florist’s. Each attempt ends in failure and he becomes quite depressed until he notices a loose thread. He pulls at this thread and then to his surprise a bird picks up the end and the sweater unravels.

Harry is delighted, although this is short-lived, as on his return the children announce that their grandmother is coming to stay. Harry takes the children and grandmother to the bird’s nest where it becomes clear that it has been made with Harry’s sweater. The story ends with Harry getting a new sweater for Christmas from grandmother. Happily, this time it is one that he really likes.


This is a charming book whose illustrations feel quite contemporary. It could be shared with two-year-olds, but it is likely to work better with children aged three to six years as they are likely to be able to relate to Harry’s experience of being made to wear something that is not liked. This might also be a book that some parents and grandparents will enjoy too as they may have seen it when they were young.


As with many picture books, this is worth reading through a couple of times. At first, children are likely to focus on what Harry does to ‘shake’ off the sweater. A second and third reading of this book will encourage children to look at the illustrations.

It is worth picking up on the facial expressions and body language of Harry, including his look of irritation when the sweater is returned for the first time, as well as his joy when he realises that the jumper has finally gone. Older children are also likely to pick up on some of the expressions used in the narrative, such as ‘quick as a flash’ and ‘it all happened before Harry could blink’.


There are several themes to explore, and also possible follow-up activities.

Personal, social and emotional development

Harry goes through a range of emotions during this book. In the preliminary pages, we see Harry being excited at the prospect of having a present to open, but then his disappointment when he sees what he looks like in the mirror. We can also explore with children whether Harry should have pretended to have liked the sweater or whether it is acceptable to say when you dislike a gift. During the story, we see that Harry is concerned about what others think about his sweater. This is worth looking at with older children who are likely to understand Harry’s perspective.

Language development

This is a book that is likely to encourage plenty of comments and even questions. The illustrations contain plenty of detail that will be of interest to children. The park scene, for example, contains a small boy with a boat as well as a man with his dog sitting on a bench. The text of the book also provides an opportunity to draw children’s attention to some specific words such as ‘speck’, ‘cosy’ and ‘snug’.

Role play

This book can be used as a starting point for developing a ‘Top Shop’ role-play area. You could put out a range of jumpers, cardigans and sweatshirts in all different sizes and colours for children to explore. This would encourage children to learn specific names of garments and create an opportunity for them to sort them according to size and/or price. Some children are also likely to pick out their favourite garments, which can lead to interesting discussions about why we like some clothes more than others.

Understanding the world

Many children may not have seen anyone knit and so may not know how threads come together to make up garments. It might be worth inviting someone who can knit or weave to show children how thread is made into cloth. You could also look out for some knitted squares that children could take apart.


If this book proves to be a success, children might also like to look at other books within the Harry series, including Harry by the Seaand Harry the Dirty Dog.


Over the course of this monthly series on sharing books with children, Penny Tassoni will look at a range of fiction and non-fiction titles, from rhyming books for babies to picture books that adults and children can explore together.

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