Why was Dear Mr. Henshaw a Newberry Award winner?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I actually think that the praise heaped upon the book is due in large part to how it handled the issue of divorce.  In 1983, the reality of divorce was growing and there was not a clear social understanding of it.  The book does a great job in handling it from a realistic point of view.  Leigh understands that while he might wish for his parents to remarry, they won't.  Through his letters, the author displays the idea that kids have to be able to understand what they can do about their lot in life and what has to be accepted for what it is.  At the time, children from divorced settings were viewed as "different."  The book does a very commendable job in handling the issue with sensitivity and grace, remaking a social issue that was seen as somewhat "taboo" and making it relevant to young people.  It is difficult to imagine this in the modern setting, when there is little, if no, stigma associated with divorce.  This might be one of the reasons why the book was honored with the Newberry Award.

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