Leigh and his mother live in a mobile home park outside of Bakersfield, California, when Leigh is in fourth grade. When writing to Mr. Henshaw about his book Ways to Amuse a Dog, Leigh is upset that the character in that book is allowed to send his dog down a slide at a playground. He says that in his neighborhood, the adults would stop him from doing such a thing, and he writes, "I hate living in a mobile home park."
When Leigh is in sixth grade, he moves to a new home. He writes to Mr. Henshaw, "This year I am in the sixth grade in a new school in a different town." Leigh's mother and father get a divorce, and he moves to a small cottage in Pacific Grove, California, to live with his mother, since his father is a truck driver and not often home.
Next door to Leigh's new home is "a gas station that goes ping-ping, ping-ping every time a car drives in." Leigh lives near the ocean and says he can sometimes hear the ocean and the sea lions.