I was sitting in court yesterday, and knew I was in for a long wait, so I decided to buy a book on the Kindle app. You know, as one does.
I went through my entire “to be read” list on Goodreads to pick a book that was reasonably priced and that I didn’t already own in physical form. Finally, I decided upon Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary, which is a children’s book. I, of course, adore children’s books..
I heard about this book in the movie, Stuck in Love, which is one of my all-time favourite movies. (My friend Tanvi is smirking proudly somewhere and saying “See? I give good movie recommendations!” Yes, you do, Thud. That’s one of the many reasons I love you.) That movie is full of aspiring authors and authors, and I figured, if they like this book, it must have done something right.
I was right.
This book hit a lot of the right buttons for me. It’s about a thoughtful little boy called Leigh Botts who wants to be an author. He writes letters to his favourite author, Mr. Henshaw, who writes back hilariously. His favourite book by the author is called Ways to Amuse a Dog. He writes 4 or 5 letters to Mr. Henshaw over a few years about the book and talks about doing various book reports and other projects for school on that book. And then this happens:
Dear Mr. Henshaw,
I got your letter and did what you said. I read a different book by you. I read Moose on Toast.
When I read that line, I almost exploded with laughter in court. I had to pause and breathe deeply to compose myself.
Mr. Henshaw encourages Leigh to write a diary, which he does, “because his mom still won’t get the TV repaired.” He starts off his journal entries by writing “Dear Mr. Pretend Henshaw” which made my heart explode with love.
The entire book is either in the form of letters or journal entries, which is, as everyone knows, my favourite style of book. I found out recently that such books are called epistolary books. So yes. I love epistolary novels and chapter books.
This book had a great librarian in it, and it made me think of how librarians were my superheroes when I was a child. I remember going to my school librarian and saying “Ma’am, my exams are over. Please give me a fat book to read.”. I need to buy fewer books and go to the library more again. I need to donate some of my books to a library. This book made me realise that librarians are superheroes, not just for me, but for book-loving children everywhere.
I adored how real this story was. It talks about the struggles of divorce, poverty, lost love and the deep, great injustice of struggling to survive as a child in an adults’ world. It talks about being invisible and lonely. And it talks about these things from the perspective of a quiet, clever and funny child.
Oh, and Leigh Botts loves dogs. There is a dog called Bandit in this book. That’s always a good thing. Dogs really tie a book together.
I thought that the ending was a bit abrupt and that the ends tied together a bit too tidily, which is why this book wasn’t a perfect five stars for me. But I did adore it.
Guys, you know you’re growing old when you read a good children’s book and you can’t wait to read it to your future children. But yeah. This is one of the books that I can’t wait to read to my children. It really affirmed my belief that children’s books that have to be, well, childish. I would recommend this book to everyone of all ages.
Have you read this book? Did you like it? What are some of your favourite children’s books? What are some of your favourite books from your childhood? Have you read any other books by Beverly Cleary? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!