Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Real characters, hilarious situations
Cons: A bit dated, two chapters that tell their own story
The Bottom Line:
Many funny tales
Book can make all laugh out loud
No matter your age
"I Want Some P.T.A.!"
For some reason, I never quite got around to reading all of Beverly Cleary's books. I don't quite know why that is since I loved the ones I read. They all featured kids in ordinary but funny situations. Henry and Ribsy was the first I read and it's a great case in point.
Henry Huggins has just one thing on his mind, fishing. His father's annual salmon fishing trip is just a few weeks away, and this year, Henry wants to go.
Unfortunately, Henry's dog Ribsy has been acting up. When he eats a policeman's sandwich while Henry is arguing his case, Mr. Huggins makes a deal. If Henry can keep Ribsy out of trouble for a month, Henry can go fishing. Henry quickly makes the deal. But can he do it?
I laughed my way through this book the first time around, and I did it again this time. The events of the book are perfectly normal and logical, but also very funny.
It works so well because these characters are real. Even though the book is third person, it is limited third person. We get all the events solely from Henry's point of view. We know exactly what he is thinking and feeling every moment. And Henry is very believable. It's never clear exactly how old he is in this book, but it is obviously elementary school. He behaves just like any other kid would. His neighborhood friends are easily as believable. And the adults in this world are perfectly developed. We see them through a child's eyes, yet they often surprise Henry with their actions.
It's been years since I read the book, so I was surprised to find that plot was a little slower then I remembered it being. This is more a slice of life tale then a plot driven book. As a result, two of the chapters are really a self contained story that only superficially has to do with Ribsy and the fishing trip. They are still highly entertaining, however.
Then there's my all time favorite Beverly Cleary chapter, "Ramona and the P.T.A." Those familiar with Mrs. Cleary's work will recognize Ramona from her own books. But before she became the main character, she was the annoying little sister of Henry's friend Beezus. It's rather hard to describe just how funny this chapter is, but it involves bones, lunchboxes, a screaming pre-schooler, a jungle gym, and a school full of mothers convinced that Ribsy is tormenting Ramona. I laughed almost as hard this time around as I did when I originally read it.
The book is over 50 years old, and it shows. From the metal garbage can that the Huggins family uses to the presence of radio and absence of TV, this book presents a picture of life in the 50's. The story and characters are vivid enough I doubt this will be a problem for today's kids.
The book is extremely well written. The vocabulary is simple enough that kids in the 8-12 year old target age range should have no problem reading it. It flows so smoothly that it would make for a great read aloud book as well.
The book has gone though many different editions over the years, and as far as I know, all of them have included pictures. The edition I read had about half a dozen line drawings per chapter. They are simple but add to the book's humor.
The book may be dated, but the characters and humor still shine through. Today's kids should love Henry just as much as the original readers did and just as much as I did in the 80's. Henry and Ribsy is a classic for all generations to enjoy.
This review is part of Marvelous Middle Grade Monday, hosted by Shannon Messenger. Visit her blog to find other participants.