Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary
Leigh Botts has been writing his favorite Author Boyd Henshaw. At first, it’s simply an assignment, but Leigh begins to write to Mr. Henshaw to tell him about his life and asks him writing advice. He asks Mr. Henshaw a list of questions and Mr. Henshaw asks Leigh a list of questions back. Leigh does not answer them all right away, but does eventually.
Leigh tells Mr. Henshaw about his home life. His family used to live in a trailer, but his parents got divorced and Leigh and his mother had to move. They moved into a tiny cottage. Leigh didn’t have his dog anymore and his mom worked all the time. People kept stealing his lunch. He tried to make a lunch alarm and it worked for a bit. He didn’t have many friends, but he soon starts to make a few.
Leigh starts a diary and writes to Pretend Mr. Henshaw. Then he enters a story writing contest. He doesn’t win, but does receive an honorable mention. He’s still trying to work through his new home life, but Leigh’s friendship with Mr. Henshaw helps him along the way.
What I liked
I think it’s really nice that Mr. Henshaw took time out of his day to write back to Leigh so many times. We don’t see anything that Mr. Henshaw wrote, the book is rather one-sided, but it’s nice anyway. When I was in school, I met several authors actually, for various reasons. I always got singled out because I was one of the top readers in the school, no joke. Yes, I know I’m a nerd. I couldn’t tell you their names, but I remember getting to eat lunch with one of them in elementary school. I think it’s great when authors encourage kids to write and to imagine things. Their time may be filled with writing and promotion of their writing, so it’s nice when one of them takes time out to prod a kid along a little.
What I didn’t like
It’s all awfully sad about Leigh’s family splitting up, but sometimes it’s necessary. Sometimes two people just don’t work out. Leigh’s father was never going to grow up to the extent that Leigh’s mother needed. I feel you Leigh’s mom, I feel you. It’s still sad for Leigh because his family has been torn apart. He still gets to see both of them from time to time, but it’s not like it was.
I feel sorry for Leigh’s mom. She’s busting her butt trying to pay rent and raise Leigh all by herself all while having to emotionally reconcile the fact that the man she loved is just a big kid and will never be anything different. She may miss him, but she knows it’s not good for her, or Leigh, to be in that kind of environment. I know Leigh doesn’t entirely understand the situation, but maybe one day he will.
Let’s hope Leigh did become a writer.
Do you think penpals can comfort you even though they’re very far away?
Do you imagine that Mr. Henshaw became invested in Leigh’s life and looked forward to his letters?