Tag Archives: books for children

Henry and the Clubhouse, by Beverly Cleary, 1962, Book Review

Henry and the Clubhouse is my favorite Henry Huggins book yet. Of course, Henry overlaps with the Ramona series. She’s his pesky little neighbor. And in this book, the two of them certainly clash!

Henry obtained a paper route in the last book. In this installment, his after-school job is funding his building project–a clubhouse that he and his two best friends are building in his backyard. Male friends, because of the “no girls allowed” rule. Yet, Henry feels badly for Beezus, who isn’t so bad as girls go, and whose feelings have been hurt. Enter Ramona who locks Henry in his own clubhouse and won’t let him out until he teaches her the secret boys-only password! And she causes no end of trouble on his paper route. Even Henry’s best ideas to get rid of her backfire. But if it weren’t for Ramona, Henry wouldn’t have gotten his name in the paper…

I love the innocence of Cleary’s books. They’re perfect read-alouds for six- to nine-year olds. The simple thrills of childhood, like building a clubhouse and sleeping in it in your very own sleeping bag, are just as fun for young kids now as they were in the last century. And the books are full of positive messages. Consider this clip from the final chapter:

“‘Henry, I’m proud of you!” said Mr. Huggins. “I don’t care how much snow there is. I’m going right out and buy half a dozen papers so we can send copies of this (article) to your relatives.’

‘Gee, thanks, Dad,” said Henry modestly. He had waited a long time to hear his father say he was proud of him.

‘I’ll admit that when you took on the route and then got mixed up in building a clubhouse, I didn’t think you could handle it, but you’ve done a good job,’ said Mr. Huggins.

Henry was pleased and at the same time a little embarrassed by this praise from his father.”

There you have it. Responsibility, pride in one’s work, friends, family and a kid-pleasing story. Is there any wonder why I love these books?

The Great Fuzz Frenzy, by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Grummel, 2005, Book Review

the great fuzz frenzyI discovered this fabulous picture book a few years ago with my middle son and we both loved it. Now my youngest son asks me to read it again and again. And I oblige, because it’s one of those rare books that never wears out no matter how many times you read it. The pictures are brilliant and funny, and the text just rolls out in a fun, quirky, “fuzzy” tumble.

The Great Fuzz Frenzy takes place in a prairie dog hole. Before the text begins, pictures show a great big golden retriever dropping a tennis ball down the hole. It bumps and it rumbles all the way to the bottom, and the prairie dogs don’t know what to make of it. Till young Pip touches it, and some of the yellow fuzz gets caught in her claw.

This prompts the frenzy indicated in the title. Every prairie dog wants fuzz. They “pulled it. Puffed it. Stretched it. Fluffed it. Tugged it. Twirled it. Spiked it. Swirled it” until the fuzz ran out, and the dogs began fighting each other for the limited supply.

In the end, the prairie dogs learn what really matters, the villain becomes the hero, and everyone swears off fuzz. But trouble threatens again in the very last picture.

I guarantee young kids will love this. Probably many of the older ones as well. My middle son still sits in on readings. I highly recommend you look up a copy!

Dear Mr. Henshaw, by Beverly Cleary, Book Review

dear mr. henshawDear Mr. Henshaw is Beverly Cleary’s highest award-winner, capturing the Newbery and Christopher Awards in the early 80’s, yet it is one of my least favorites. Written as a series of letters and journal entries, with absolutely no narration, Mrs. Cleary somehow, miraculously, weaves together a plot, a central-California setting and a well-rounded character. This accomplishment is a testament to her craft; the story is emotional and compelling. I simply don’t care for the style.

In a departure from her usual optimistic, fun-and-quirky subjects, Mrs. Cleary introduces us to Leigh Botts, a troubled boy who wants to become a writer. Through a series of letters sent to his favorite author, Mr. Henshaw, we catch insights into Leigh’s likes and dislikes, his hopes and insecurities, his absent, immature, truck-driver father, his wonderfully strong and supportive mother, and his loneliness. He quickly catches our hearts and our sympathies.

As Leigh’s first letters are rather insulting and demanding (humorous peeks into a child’s mind), Mr. Henshaw encourages him to keep a journal instead. We watch Leigh’s writing abilities grow stronger and stronger. Though Leigh’s never receives the happy turn of fortune he longs for, he learns, he grows, he meets with some success, and he grows stronger. For a child, this is a story of the triumph of the human spirit. For a parent, it is a wake-up call to consider exactly what adult selfishness and irresponsibility can do to the children who depend on us. One not to be taken lightly.

Though I much prefer traditional narration, the skill, the message, the powerful emotion of Dear Mr. Henshaw prompts me to recommend it.

Click here for a Kindle edition.  Read more of my Beverly Cleary reviews.

Newbery Honor Books, 2000-2010

Here’s where to find Newbery Honor books and my reviews. Asterics indicate the books I’ve read for my ongoing Newbery challenge but not reviewed.

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

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2003

2002

2001

2000