Saturday, December 31, 2016


Gary Larson is a funny man. I've read volumes and volumes of Far Side comics, which I started collecting from book fairs as a child, but I had never read There's a Hair in my Dirt until a link to the book as a PDF crossed my Tumblr dashboard.

The book is a funny, somewhat mean exploration of the problems that arise from people who want to take care of the world but know nothing about it. It follows the story of Princess Harriet, a beautiful lady who is keen to interact with the nature around her but who consistently gets things wrong because she tries to support cute, pretty creatures and save little cuddly animals but is disgusted with snakes and slimy things. She has a big footprint in her little natural world but almost everything that she does makes a negative impact on the world around her.

She tries to rescue a turtle crossing the road and ends up drowning what was really a tortoise, she feeds the cute animals in her forest and ends up supporting an invasive species that drives out the local animals, and finally she rescues a mouse from a "mean" snake. She ends up getting hantavirus from the mouse because she didn't realize that snakes are a valuable form of pest control that's much more helpful than harmful to humans who share environments with wildlife. It is the hair of dead Princess Harriet that is in stuck in a pile of dirt that serves as dinner for a little worm-boy; the story is framed by by his worm father recounting the tale of Harriet after his son complains about a hair in his dirt.

It is a little bit cruel, the worm family revels in the demise of Princess Harriet, but nature is cruel - or at least indifferent, and that's the main message of the book. You need to learn about nature because nature has no interest in taking care of you.

I think the main audience for this book is a lot like the kid I was when I was buying the Larson collections - a bright kid with an interest in science who also cackled over gross-out humor and is a bit morbid. I'm sure there are lots of kids out there who would really enjoy reading There's A Hair in my Dirt (the fact that it's a graphic novel of sorts might help) but it's got a message that's worthwhile for a lot of adults to internalize as well.

     - Alli

Larson, Gary. There's a Hair in my Dirt. Harper Perennial. New York: New York. 1998.

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