Henry and the Paper Route by Beverly Cleary
Feb 25, 2015
A couple of weeks before Christmas, I was at Costco and found a collection of fifteen Beverly Cleary books for under $30. I looked it over and noticed two of the Henry books (Henry and the Paper Route and Henry and the Clubhouse) and one of the Ramona books (Ramona Forever) were not included, but at less than $2 per book, I couldn't pass it up. I just thought I would add in the missing books later. No big deal. I might have to pay $7 or $8 for each one, but when I was saving so much on the others, it really didn't matter.
I gave the set to Aaron for Christmas. He loved it. Still loves it. I was congratulating myself on a brilliant purchase.
Then, a couple of weeks ago, as I was deciding which books to get the boys for Valentine's Day, I decided to fill in a couple of those missing books. I checked on Amazon, but couldn't find the 2007 edition. (<----- The one pictured over there.) No problem. I went to Barnes and Noble. Couldn't find it. I tried The King's English. They didn't have any of them. Finally, I went to Frost's, a local new and used bookstore. They had several Beverly Cleary books in that edition but not the ones I was looking for. So I asked one of the salespeople, and she dropped this bomb:
"That edition is no longer in print."
I felt a little foolish because that's something I should have been able to figure out pretty quickly on my own without running around to three different stores, but I guess I just never expected something that was being sold at Costco two months before to be out of print.
It's not that big of a deal really. I'm sure I can track down those books on ebay or at Saver's (I already found and purchased Ramona Forever), but the main reason I'm irritated is because I don't even like that edition! The updated illustrations clash with the 1950's text. I only went with it because it was convenient and I thought it would be easy to get a matching set. But now I'm going to have the hassle of piecing it together anyway (and I will piece it together because I do want them all to match).
Anyway, on to Henry and the Paper Route. (Since it's one of the ones I'm still searching for, we just checked it out from the library.)
If you've read the other Henry books, you'll already know that Henry is very envious of Scooter's paper route. In fact, in Henry and Beezus, Henry has a chance to fill in for Scooter, and it almost turns disastrous when Ribsy won't leave the newspapers where they've been tossed. Scooter can be insufferably cocky at times, and he's no different in this book, but one day, as he pedals by delivering the papers, he asks Henry if he knows anyone who wants their own paper route. Yes, Henry knows someone. Himself! But Scooter says there's no way that's going to happen since Henry isn't eleven yet.
So Henry sets out to prove that he is a responsible almost-eleven-year-old. In the meantime, he acquires four kittens (one of which he gets to keep), collects the most paper for the school paper drive, folds Scooter's papers for him, and meets the new boy down the street. Oh, and enough time goes by that he actually turns eleven, too. Just when he thinks things he'll finally get the job of his dreams, it slips out of his grasp. And if not for a certain annoying four-year-old (i.e., Ramona Quimby) it would have stayed far out of reach.
Every time I read one of the Henry books, I get a little inkling of how much the world has changed in the nearly 60 years since they were originally published. For example, do you regularly see 11-, 12-, and 13-year-old kids delivering newspapers on weekday afternoons? Because I don't. And I never have in any of the places I've lived. All of the "paper boys" I know are actually adults who nearly run me over when I'm out running early in the morning as they toss the papers from their cars.
And then there's the paper drive held by Henry's school as a way to raise money for a new curtain in the auditorium. Henry diligently sets about collecting all the unwanted paper around the neighborhood (if he accumulates a stack of papers that measures 30 inches high, he gets a prize). What a difference from the fundraiser Aaron brought home earlier this week! (What unwanted, unnecessary item would you like to buy from this catalog? We settled on the chocolate-covered caramels and sent the form back with him the next day without ever asking any family, friends, or neighbors.) Can you even recycle paper for money these days? I have no idea.
But some things remain the same whether you were born in 1958 or 2008. At Henry's birthday party, "the boys entertained themselves by practicing artificial respiration on one another." I just had to laugh when I read that because it was so random, and yet, I happen to know a bunch of adolescent boys who would be quite amused by that (and likewise, I know very few (if any) girls who would come up with that as a fun activity). Once again, Beverly Cleary hit the interests, humor, and frustrations of boys spot on. She's pretty amazing.
Even though this was not my favorite Henry book, we still enjoyed it immensely. Like Ramona, we can always count on him for a story worth reading.