Henry Huggins, the boys and I have been anxious to read more of Henry's adventures and mishaps.
In this installment, Henry wants a bike more than he's ever wanted anything. Unfortunately, his parents tell him there just isn't enough money for them to go out and buy him a brand-new bicycle. It only adds insult to injury when cocky show-off Scooter saves the day by speeding off on his own bike to catch Ribsy, who has just made off with the neighbors' steak dinner. Henry knows he would do amazing things with his bike too, so he determines that, with or without his parents' help, he is going to acquire a bicycle . . . and he's going to do it before the annual Rose Festival parade.
But coming up with $59.95 isn't easy. He tries delivering papers, selling bubble gum, and buying a used one at the bicycle auction, but all he ends up with is a parking ticket and an embarrassed ego. He is about to give up on ever owning a shiny red bike when fate hands him a golden ticket.
We enjoyed this book just as much as the first one. I think I mentioned before that, while I read all the Ramona books, I never read any of Henry's stories when I was younger. I'm kind of amazed by how much I'm enjoying them as an adult. To be sure, much of my enjoyment comes in seeing Aaron's and Maxwell's reactions when Ribsy collects all of the morning newspapers from the neighbors' front walks or when Henry accidentally buys a girl's bike. But the boys aside, I have also been enjoying it for my own sake.
Each chapter is unpredictable in a delightful way. For example, in the last chapter, Henry goes to the grand opening of the new Colossal Market where they are giving away 25 door prizes. Of course, Aaron, Maxwell, and I conjectured that Henry was going to win his shiny red bike at the giveaway (it was the last chapter, after all). Well, Henry did indeed win a door prize, but it was not a brand-new red bicycle. It was something totally unexpected and hilarious; something that just made you want to give Henry a sympathetic pat on the back; but something that, almost miraculously, helped him get the possession he most wanted. It's really genius writing.
Also, here again, Beverly Cleary came up with story lines and subjects that were exactly the kinds of things my boys are interested in: bikes and gum and dogs and chases and general mayhem. While I know girls will like these books too, I can't deny that the interests of boys are clearly being given the spotlight, and I love it.
One of Aaron and Maxwell's favorite characters was Ramona. She could get them laughing like nothing else--from her games of "waiting at the bus stop" to her insistence that she was hungry or thirsty or bored, she was one of their prime interests. Their very favorite Ramona scene was when she, quite unintentionally, helped untrain Ribsy when he was stealing all the neighbors' newspapers. Every time she aimed her water gun at someone and yelled, "You're dead!" they both erupted into fits of laughter. I think I could have read that chapter again and again, and it would have still been funny to them. It makes me wonder if, even though we're enjoying Henry's books so much, we should maybe take a slight detour and try a Ramona book or two.
One thing that struck me again with this book, as with the first one, was the hands-off approach of Henry's parents. He wants a bike, they tell him they wish he had one but they can't afford one, and then they leave it in his hands. And Henry runs with that confidence and freedom. I'm not one to go out and buy my kids brand-new toys whenever the fancy strikes them, but I think I would at least help them think of ways to earn money or scour garage sales or the classifieds with them. But there is something so refreshing in the way Henry's parents handle it because you can almost see Henry's independence growing as he becomes responsible for his own wants.
If you have not introduced the amazing stories of Beverly Cleary to your children (or yourself), you are missing out. They are absolutely timeless, and I can't wait to read another one with my kids.