fiction favorites…Henry Huggins

Henry Huggins, by Beverly Cleary, illustrated by Louis Darling

Henry Huggins was in the third grade.  His hair looked like a scrubbing brush and most of his grown-up front teeth were in.  He lived with his mother and father in a square white house on Klickitat Street.  Except for having his tonsils out when he was six and breaking his arm falling out of a cherry tree when he was seven, nothing much happened to Henry.
I wish something exciting would happen, Henry often thought.  But nothing very interesting ever happened to Henry, at least not until one Wednesday afternoon in March.

Henry Huggins:  the iconic, All-American, 1950s boy.  There must be about a million of us who grew up reading about Henry, his dog Ribsy, and his friends Beezus and Ramona and Scooter, all living along Klickitat Street.  Against a backdrop of simple, ordinary life — neighborhood friendships and school days, chores and squabbles, dreams of footballs and first snowfalls — Cleary sets the funny mishaps and adventures and 8-year-old schemes of dear Henry.

This is the first of the Henry books; in fact, it was Beverly Cleary’s very first book, launching her on an incredible career of legendary contribution to children’s literature.  In this book, six chapters tell us six fairly separate adventures, beginning with the day Henry finds a little lost dog he names Ribsy.  Here are the stories of a guppy-raising fiasco, a necessary night crawler business, the trials and tribulations of a grade school operetta, an unusual entry in the dog show, and the worrisome day when Henry almost loses Ribsy.

Henry Huggins is perfect for young children — perhaps ages 6-9 is a good target audience.  These are stories meant to make kids giggle, rather than stand up to serious scrutiny.  Lighthearted adventures of a boy kids can relate to, who is the shortest one in his class, whose dog is a mutt, who straggles and struggles and gets embarrassed, who loves to play, and who thinks girls are dumb though he has several who are his good friends.  Great read-aloud. 

I  hadn’t picked this up since I read it in about 1968, and was struck by the many elements which will be unfamiliar to today’s readers:  telephone booths and flexible flyers; librarians stamping your card and five-cent ice cream cones; beanies and silver dollars.  In fact, I suppose a lot of today’s parents don’t know these items either!  Ah, well.  Lots of retro goodness here.  Also, one brief unflattering portrayal of Native Americans, 1950s-style.

Henry Huggins is a great little book, and will usher your kids into about a dozen more titles from Cleary which they’ll likely enjoy.

Here’s the Amazon link:  Henry Huggins