Dear Mr. Henshaw, by Beverly Cleary, was so much better (and shorter!) than I expected. Why didn't anyone tell me what a sweet book this is?
I'm not a huge Beverly Cleary fan, mainly because I'm not terribly familiar with her books. I somehow missed her stories as a child (my parents and grandmothers tended to give me classic books as gifts, and I never stumbled across Ramona or Henry Huggins on my own). When Dear Mr. Henshaw won the Newbery in 1984, I was in college, and not paying a whole lot of attention to children's books. But I'm trying to make up for lost time now. ;-)
The title didn't instantly draw me to this book, nor did the cover. The reviews and summaries didn't really grab my interest, either - an epistolary story (ho hum) about a boy whose parents divorce (sounds depressing). I don't usually like heavy-handed "serious topic affecting youth today" kinds of kid's books.
But I was wrong (except about the cover, I still don't like the cover, or the illustrations all that much). This book was funny, not at all heavy-handed, and the format - of letters to Mr. Henshaw and diary excerpts - was perfect. Both Leigh's and Mr. Henshaw's "voices" (although you only get Mr. Henshaw's words as they are reflected by Leigh, but that's enough) were wonderful. The portrayal of the divorced parents was so skilfully done that I wondered whom Cleary modeled it on.
Sometimes it's good to be so far off the mark when it comes to judging a book by its cover and blurbs. Now what I'd really like is another book by Beverly Cleary featuring Boyd Henshaw (with maybe a few reflected notes from a teenaged Leigh?). He just sounds like someone I'd like to hear more about.