A couple of years ago, Audible had a great sale on children’s audiobooks. I ended up getting most of Beverly Cleary’s books for about $4 apiece. I’ve been reading the Ramona books with my seven-year-old twins, so we’ve decided to listen to the Henry Huggins books when we drive around town.
Beverly Cleary might be best known for her Ramona series, but she wrote the Henry Huggins books almost twenty years before Ramona’s first book. The girls were excited to listen to Henry Huggins because they know Henry as a friend of Ramona’s sister Beezus. Henry is also the traffic boy when Ramona is in Kindergarten, and she antagonizes him, both inadvertently and deliberately.
Henry Huggins starts a couple of years before the events in the Ramona series. When the story begins, Henry is a third grade boy who finds a stray dog after his swimming lesson. The dog is so skinny that Henry calls him Ribsy. Henry is downtown by himself, and must get the dog home on the bus. This is quite the misadventure, and it sets the tone for the rest of the book- and, I daresay- the rest of the series. Henry is not a naughty boy, but always seems to get himself into “scrapes”, usually involving Ribsy. Henry grows very attached to Ribsy, but what will happen when Ribsy’s owner comes looking for him?
Henry is a resourceful boy. He is quite self reliant, and when he gets into trouble, he takes it upon himself to find a solution for the problem. Henry has a large group of neighborhood friends, and they seem to play together without much adult supervision. It is somewhat surprising in the modern era to see the children resolve the issue of who owns Ribsy without any intervention from the adults.
I would recommend Henry Huggins. This is the first book in a five book series, and even though the books function pretty well as standalones, I would recommend reading the series in order. As I mentioned at the beginning of the review, we’ve been listening to the Henry Huggins series. Neil Patrick Harris reads all but one of the books, and he turns the reading into a delightful production. Henry Huggins is a wonderful book for children in elementary school, either as a read-aloud choice for younger children or as independent reading for more proficient readers.