I was really going wild at the bookstore over epistolary novels last week and picked up Dear Mr. Henshaw, a book I hadn’t read in a super long time (maybe 20 years?). Happy to say that it holds up and is just as wonderful as I remember! It’s always weird reading a book you read a lot as a kid and seeing it through the eyes of an adult. I was struck by how big the print is, which I didn’t remember at all, and it was kind of odd to remember feeling accomplished as I learned to read chapter books. It was a nice feeling of growth.
Dear Mr. Henshaw is told through letters written by Leigh Botts to the titular Mr. Henshaw. Mr Henshaw is Leigh’s favorite author and he writes to him over the course of several years, although the bulk of the book takes place in sixth grade. Leigh’s parents have gotten a divorce and he misses his truck driver dad. He is also grappling with his recent move and starting a new school where someone keeps stealing the best parts of his lunch. As Leigh starts to write to Mr. Henshaw, he begins to think about the possibility of being an author himself. This book is the kind of work I really enjoy, where the narrative might be construed as quiet or small, but the depth of feeling and the nuance that the author introduces make it so true to life and alive. Leigh’s struggle at school, about the divorce, and with his overall feeling of being displaced makes this a really timeless book.
My only note is that this is a thin book at 134 pages — I got it at a reduced price of about $4, but I’d hesitate to say it’s worth buying at the full $7.99 cover price for how thin it is. There are so many used copies of this that it might be worth going to a used bookstore if you could.
I love this book and look forward to reading it at 61 and seeing what I think then!