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Title:  Dear Mr. Henshaw
Author:  Beverly Cleary
Published:  August 1983
Pages:  144
Publisher:  HarperCollins
Genre:  Fiction, Children’s 9-12
Source:  personal copy

Dear Mr. Henshaw was one of my favorite books when I was a kid.  I can’t even tell you how many times I read this book – SO many.  Something inspired me to read the book again recently, and I’m so glad that I did because it was like a little trip down memory lane.  It was such a comfortable book and I loved every minute I spent with Dear Mr. Henshaw this time around.

The book is written in letters, from the main character, eleven-year-old Leigh Botts to his favorite author, Mr. Henshaw.  Actually, Leigh writes his first letter when he is in second grade, but the majority of the book takes place in his sixth grade year.  Leigh tells Mr. Henshaw about a lot that happens in his life – his parents’ divorce, his issues with other kids at school, and how much he misses his dog.  Through these letters to the author, and later a journal of unsent letters, Leigh forms a close friendship with the author (albeit a tad one-sided) and grows up quite a bit as well.

One of the things I like about this book so much, now that I’m an adult and can look at it from a different perspective, is how average Leigh Botts is.  Of course every kid wishes that they could be smarter, stronger, better than the other kids – but most kids realize that they simply aren’t.  I think that as a kid I related to Leigh because I also saw myself as he did, “in the middle”.  So many main characters of books do something extraordinary or have something extreme happen to them – Leigh Botts just lived an ordinary life like a regular kid.

The other thing that stands out to me about Dear Mr. Henshaw is the talk about Leigh’s parents’ divorce.  Leigh talks about his fears and insecurities regarding the situation with his parents, and I think so many kids who go through that feel the same emotions Lee displays.  Every kid wonders what they could have done differently to keep their parents together, they think that their father or mother (whichever parent has to move out) doesn’t love them enough, that their parents couldn’t possibly meet new people to date, etc.  Leigh deals with all of these confusing thoughts just like any kid would when going through a divorce.

I’m a huge fan of Dear Mr. Henshaw, I always have been, and reading it as an adult just reminded me of that even more.  I would absolutely recommend this book to children of all ages.