What is the prize in "Dear Mr. Henshaw"?
The prize for winning the writing contest for the Young Writers' Yearbook is a chance to meet a "Famous Author". Leigh would very much like to win the contest, but finds that he has trouble writing a story. He is comforted to find out that Mr. Henshaw had problems writing too when he was Leigh's age. Mr. Henshaw tells Leigh that "maybe (he is) not ready to write a story...(because) a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way". Until he has experienced what that means, Leigh will have a hard time writing a made-up story.
Leigh tries to write a number of different pieces, but is not happy with any of them. He finally decides to write a nonfiction description of something he knows, and ends up recounting a day he spent with his Dad on his truck driving route. His submission is entitled "A Day on Dad's Rig", and it wins Honorable Mention. As it turns out, the girl who won the contest is eliminated because she copied her entry from a book, so Leigh gets to step in and meet the "Famous Author". The author is "a nice lady, plump with wild hair", named Mrs. Badger. She tells Leigh that his submission was good because "it was written by a boy who wrote honestly about something he knew and had strong feelings about" (March 30).