CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 37 . . . . May 25, 2018
Harrison P. Spader, Personal Space Invader is about learning social norms, particularly those concerning personal space. In the Spader family, consisting of five anthropomorphic hippopotamuses, being up close and personal is the norm for the Spader parents and their three offspring, but, when their son Harrison P. takes the family's behaviors into the larger world, his innocent encroachment into others' personal space in a variety of settings causes them to feel uncomfortable. Because Harrison is unaware that his behaviors are creating discomfiture and distress amongst his animal peers, a number of adults contact Harrison's father about Harrison's space-invading behaviors (see "excerpt"). Harrison's father teaches Harrison a rhyme, "the Space Saver", that his mother had taught him.
Harrison memorizes his grandmother's poem and practices the associated movements. Unfortunately, Harrison treats the Space Saver behavior as an absolute "rule", and consequently he applies it in situations in which it does not apply, such as on crowded fan bleachers. Harrison's dad then receives a new round of complaining calls which causes him to clarify with Harrison the appropriate times in which he should employ the Spacer Saver technique and when he should just "try to stay in [his] own space".
The closing pages show that Harrison has learned when and where to apply the Space Saver technique, and he now recognizes and honours other people's need for personal space (well, most of the time).
Whether or not young readers actually recognize and apply the book's "lesson", Harrison P. Spader, Personal Space Invader is still a fun read, one greatly enhanced by Atkinson's cartoon-like illustrations.
Dave Jenkinson, CM's editor, lives in Winnipeg, MB.
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