Houston L. Maples

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 410

In Henry 3 Joseph Krumgold continues the dialogue between the generations which he has explored with such sensitivity and insight in his previous works. Once again he presents us with a boy on the verge of the adult world, torn between affection for his parents and the need to establish his own values…. Mr. Krumgold's style is beautiful in its suppleness, economy and nuance, his story rich in variety of character and incident; yet one will look in vain for that undercurrent of poetic identification with rural or village scene which illuminated And Now Miguel or Onion John. Crestview, by contrast, is a dismal and disturbing manifestation of spiritual poverty and cold-blooded opportunism, the symptoms described with uncanny accuracy and, underneath, a humorous disdain. (p. 8)

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Has Mr. Krumgold written a sociological treatise or a story for children? Despite the underlying concern with social issues and moral values, this is a warm and engaging story about a special boy, his friends and, most of all, his parents. Crestview with its neon-lit shopping center and fourteen different style houses is dreadful to the eye of the sophisticated reader, but, within the framework of the child's world, it is merely where Henry lives, and better than where he lived before. Mr. Krumgold's primary concern is with the beauty and humor and sadness of human aspirations and the human condition; consequently his characters, who speak in a spontaneous and wonderfully revealing manner, engross us in a personal and individual way simply as people working out their destinies, rather than as symbols manipulated to demonstrate a theory.

It is often said that children's literature is the literature of optimism. Henry 3 belongs firmly to that tradition. If there are no easy answers in Henry's world, neither is there cause for cynicism or despair. An affirmative belief in human goodness is real and palpable throughout the story. The relationship between the boy and his parents is remarkable in its directness and wealth of affection. Even when Henry is obliged to reject their values and to make his disappointment known, he does so thoughtfully and with a candor which testifies to the depth of their mutual love. It is this capacity for love, so beautifully understated, which enables the parents to recognize the need of their son and their own limitations. How they provide for that need gives the story a surprising and moving conclusion. (p. 34)

Houston L. Maples, in Book World—Chicago Tribune, Part II (© 1967 Postrib Corp.), November 5, 1967.

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