What advice does Mr. Fridley give Leigh when Leigh asks to be excused from class in Beverly Cleary's Dear Mr. Henshaw?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Beverly Cleary's Dear Mr. Henshaw, towards the beginning of February, Leigh is so upset about his father not phoning nearly all January that Leigh decides to phone his dad's trailer. Leigh is even more upset when his father answers the phone because it means his father was not out driving a truck, but rather sitting at home where he could have easily phoned Leigh. His father then breaks Leigh's heart by telling him Leigh's dog Bandit went missing during a snow storm on the highway up in the Sierra Nevada, a California mountain range. Leigh's heart is broken even further when he hears a "boy's voice say, 'Hey, Bill, Mom wants to know when we're going out to get pizza?'" ("Sunday, February 4"). Hearing the boy's voice makes Leigh realize his dad is off living a life Leigh knows nothing about, and Leigh is not a huge part of that life. What's more, if his father had gone off for pizza, he certainly would not have called Leigh that night, as he said he would have. Leigh feels heartbroken to the point of feeling sick. The next day at school, because Leigh is stopped by Mr. Fridley before getting into mischief, and Mr. Fridley offers him advice.

In a diary entry Leigh writes on February 6th, just after being heartbroken by his father, Leigh explains he felt so upset that at one point in the day he began feeling very angry about the lunch thief. He became so angry he asks "to be excused to go to the bathroom," but as he goes out into the school hallway, he picks up the sack lunch "closest to the door." He is "about to drop-kick it down the hall" when Mr. Fridley taps his shoulder and asks what he is doing. Mr. Fridley says he doesn't "want to see a boy like [Leigh] get into trouble." When Leigh responds by complaining about not having friends at the school, Mr. Fridley points out he "scowls all the time," which isn't very friendly. Mr. Fridley also tells Leigh he is so wrapped up in his own problems that he hasn't noticed everyone around him has problems, and the way to improve the situation is through positive thinking. Leigh begins to think positively that day after school when he goes for a walk and winds up in a park of butterfly trees. The sight of swarms of beautiful monarch butterflies makes him happy.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team