Dear Mr. Henshaw,I wish somebody would stop stealing the good stuff out of my lunchbag. I guess I wish a lot of other things, too. I wish someday Dad and Bandit would pull up in front in the rig … Dad would yell out of the cab, “Come on, Leigh. Hop in and I’ll give you a lift to school.”Leigh Botts has been author Boyd Henshaw’s number one fan ever since he was in second grade. Now in sixth grade, Leigh lives with his mother and is the new kid at school. He’s lonely, troubled by the absence of his father, a cross-country trucker, and angry because a mysterious thief steals from his lunchbag. Then Leigh’s teacher assigns a letter-writing project. Naturally Leigh chooses to write to Mr. Henshaw, whose surprising answer changes Leigh’s life.
When, in second grade, Leigh writes to an author to tell him how much he “licked” his book, he never suspects that he’ll still be writing to him four years later. And he never imagines the kinds of things he’ll be writing about: Dear Mr. Henshaw, I am sorry I was rude in my last letter… Maybe I was mad about other things, like Dad forgetting to send this month’s support payment. Mom tried to phone him at the trailer park where, as Mom says, he hangs his hat. It’s not easy being the new kid in town, with recently divorced parents, no dog anymore, and a lunch that gets stolen every day (all the “good stuff,” anyway). Writing letters, first to the real Mr. Henshaw, and then in a diary to a pretend Mr. Henshaw, may be just what he needs. This Newbery Medal-winning book, by the terrifically popular and prolific Beverly Cleary (Ramona Quimby, Age 8 and Runaway Ralph), exhibits a subtlety and sensitivity that will be appreciated by any youngster who feels lonely and troubled during the transition into adolescence. Winner of numerous other awards, including two Newbery Honors, Cleary teams up with Caldecott winner Paul O. Zelinsky, who creates a quiet backdrop for the realistic characters. (Ages 8 to 12) –Emilie Coulter