Dear Mr. Henshaw is an entertaining book that offers the distinct pleasure of reading a boy's personal letters and private diary. Within the novel's pages, Cleary effectively and sensitively handles the delicate problem of a young adult's struggle with the effects of his parents' divorce and conveys the message that dedicated work to improve one's situation will result in both maturity and satisfaction. Leigh Botts must learn to accept that his parents will never remarry, no matter how much he might like them to, and that he cannot count on his father to be available when he needs him. The daily problems Leigh faces are familiar to many young adults: classroom assignments, a name he dislikes, an absent father, a working mother, a move to a small house, loneliness, a lunch bag thief, staying at home alone before and after school, broken promises, a lack of friends, a broken television set, and a missing pet. Some problems Leigh cannot solve, such as divorce and a father who fails to keep promises. Others, though, Leigh struggles to solve himself. For example, he engineers a lunch box alarm to stop the thief from stealing his treats. Cleary sprinkles humor through the pages and balances unfortunate situations with pleasant ones as Leigh grows to understand himself and life. Thus, the book is both entertaining and enlightening.
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