Dear Mr. Henshaw
by Beverly Cleary, published 1983
“Who wants to be friends with someone who scowls all the time? asked Mr. Fridley. “So you’ve got problems. Well, so has everyone see, if you take the trouble to notice.”
This children’s book is an unexpected treasure. I have read other Beverly Cleary books that seemed too superficial, so this one totally surprised me by it’s depth. It is not a complicated children’s book, and yet, as the character in the book grows, so does the depth of the story.
It’s not obvious in the beginning that this book will focus on the emotional stress that results from divorce. In fact, if I knew that was the theme, I might not have selected it to read. Yet, I am so glad that I did. The writing takes us on a journey with a young boy and his feelings towards his estranged dad. The entire story is in the boy’s own words, through his diary and his letters. The transformation that the boy goes through is sincere, and it was easy to shed tears at the very unexpected ending.
I also realized, reading this book, that just because it deals with divorce, doesn’t mean it should only be read by children who share that experience. A children’s book like this one would be valuable for any child to read, as it opens their eyes to the inner life of others. I think this book is a great example of one that helps build compassion in children. It is also a wonderful book for boys.