Newbery Verdict: Dear Mr. Henshaw

dear-mr-henshawDear Mr. Henshaw // by Beverly Cleary (1983)

Newbery Winner (1984)
Genre: MG, Contemporary/Epistolary
Rating: 5 Stars

Basic Plot: Leigh Botts loves the book Ways to Amuse a Dog so much that he decides to write the author: Mr. Henshaw. Through a series of letters (and later a diary), Leigh finds an outlet to work through his problems that range from a lunch-thief to his absentee dad.

MY THOUGHTS…

This is probably my second read-through of this book. And while I knew the ending, I found this book just as interesting to read this second time around. (For some odd reason, I never read Beverly Cleary’s books when I was a kid. Yes, I saw them everywhere, but for some reason, I never picked them up. Not until I was an adult!)

I love a good epistolary novel… when it works. And this one works very nicely. My favourite letter is the first one, which reads as follows:

Dear Mr. Henshaw,
My teacher read your book about the dog to our class. It was funny. We licked it.
Your friend,
Leigh Botts (boy)

I love how Cleary is able to capture the voice of this boy, misspellings and all. Another section I really enjoyed was when Leigh gives Mr. Henshaw a list of questions, and Mr. Henshaw replies with a list of his own questions… which Leigh does NOT want to answer! But, of course, his mom makes him.

I like how it also deals with the hard topics in Leigh’s life, like the divorce of his parents. Now, I like a book where divorced parents get back together (Parent Trap, anybody?) And of course, that is Leigh’s own wish. While the ending of this book does present this as an option, it remains realistic. Most couples don’t get back together. As Leigh says in the final line: “I felt sad and a whole lot better at the same time.”

NEWBERY VERDICT…

This book deserved every inch of its Newbery award. It’s wonderfully written, has a likable protagonist. And yes, I licked it very much. (P.S. Now I want to read Mr. Henshaw’s books, but for some reason, I can’t find them anywhere!)

YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments!


Newbery Verdict Reading Challenge: This is a personal challenge for me to read books that have either won the Newbery Medal or are a Newbery Honor book. The Newbery is named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery. Since 1922, this annual award has given to the author of the “most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.” A Newbery Honor book is given to the runners-up.

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

When You’ve Read the Last One

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You’ve just read the last book ever written by an author.

And the author is no longer living. In other words: Dead.

What do you do?

Years ago, I remember reading about a man whose favourite author was Charles Dickens. He had read every single novel by Dickens. Except one.

This intrigued me. You see, the reason he held out on reading the final book was because he was saving it. That way he would always have one more book to look forward to.

I always wondered, Did he ever read that final book? And if so… when? On his death bed??

Fortunately, for the fan of Charles Dickens, there are a lot of books to enjoy. The same goes for Shakespeare. It’ll take you awhile to go through those.

I also remember my mom once telling me that, after reading To Kill a Mockingbird, she would always keep her eyes peeled for a “new” book by Harper Lee. Except, there was never any other book. She’d only ever published that one. (Until a couple of years ago, that is. I’ve still not read Go Set a Watchman. Basically because I’m afraid to. My big question is this: If the book wasn’t good enough to be published pre-Mockingbird, why would it be good enough to be published now?)

And then there’s Jane Austen. She only published six novels. Once you’ve read the six, that’s it! Unless you want to read her unfinished works. Which, frankly, I tend to avoid. And I don’t count the fan fiction. (I’ve tried, and in my opinion, those books don’t quite cut it.)

So, what do you do when you’ve run out of books by your favourite author?

I find there are two things that can be done.

1) Good books are worth reading a second time. And a third. And a fourth. Actually, a good book just keeps getting better.

2) It also means you get to look for new authors. Whether they are new “old” (read: dead) authors, or new “new” (read: alive) authors. It’ll be hit and miss. Probably more misses than hits. And when you find a good one, it’s like adding to your circle of friends.

Happy New Year!