Sunday, 3 May 2009

Review: Dear Mr. Henshaw

Beverly Cleary was definitely my favorite author growing up. I read all the Ramona Quimby books multiple times, but I think the prize for the most rereads of one books is this one...Dear Mr. Henshaw.

This was the first time I had reread it as an adult. What a difference of perspective! Leigh Botts' favorite author is Boyd Henshaw. He writes to him for the first time in 2nd grade, and a couple years later sends him a list of questions to answer as part of a school report. Mr. Henshaw answers his questions and sends a list back for Leigh to answer. So begins a mentorship and friendship in writing. Along the way, Leigh deals with feelings surrounding his parents' divorce and being the new kid at school, all while developing the skills he needs to become an author someday.

I was struck by the talent it takes for an adult to write authentically from a kid's perspective. We see the world through Leigh's eyes - even how he interprets Mr. Henshaw's advice. And, we see Leigh develop over the years he writes to Mr. Henshaw. His thinking becomes less concrete, and he is able to view a situation from multiple perspectives. He also develops self-awareness. I think it takes a skilled author to convey so many things in language plain enough that it can be understood by young readers.

When I opened the book last night, I could have told you that the book was in letter format between a kid and an author. I had forgotten almost all of the details, but as soon as I read them again they came back. I could hear some of them being read by my second grade teacher, while others were familiar because I'd read them so many times before. It was a fun trip down memory lane.


  1. I've read the entire Ramona series with my daughter but we've not read this one. I bet my daughter would love this!