Friday, April 10, 2009

Friday Fiction Fix: "Dear Mr. Henshaw"

Today, ladies and gentleman, we bring you a very special edition of "Friday Fiction Fix." The concept behind this feature is to somehow tie sports and fiction together in a humorous way, an effort that, much like every other ounce of energy spent inside this House of Georges, goes largely unrecognized. Today will be no exception, so bare with us. In addition to this Sunday being Easter, it's also a very important day for reasons completely unrelated to religion. It is National D.E.A.R. day, which stands for Drop Everything And Read. This day was created by the one and only Beverly Cleary, who, if you had an upbringing like mine, has a major influence on many young American readers. The concept for the day originated, if I recall, within one of her stories, and became a reality, one that is celebrated on her birthday.

So without any further ado, let's get to the bit.

Mrs. Cleary will be 93 on Sunday.

She makes her home in Carmel, California, and in her life, she has won many awards, including the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award in 1975 and the 1984 Newbery Medal for today's FFF excerption, and the National Medal of the Arts in 2003. She has an elementary school named after her, a university chair named after her, as well as a college residential hall. She has published nearly 40 novels, many of which contain famous childhood characters such as Beezus, Ramona, Ralph S. Mouse, Henry, Ribsy, Socks, and of course, Leigh Botts, the boy who writes letters to Mr. Henshaw.

There are, as in any good book, a number of themes running through Dear Mr. Henshaw, one of which is the constant thieving of items from Leigh Botts' lunch, and since we have, this week, already touched on Joe Blanton and Sidney Ponson, why not throw a few more logs on the fat-pitcher fire.

In a letter dated December 4, he writes, "When I write a book maybe I'll call it The Great Lunchbag Mystery, because I have a lot of trouble with my lunchbag...Today I was supposed to have a deviled egg. Katy buys the smallest eggs for parties so half an egg can be eaten in one bite and won't spill on people's carpets...

At lunchtime when I opened my lunchbag, my egg was gone."

As the problem persists, Leigh begins to eat his lunch on the way to school, in order to avoid the thievage. Later in the month he writes, "If I eat my lunch on the way to school, I get hungry in the afternoon. Today I didn't

so the two stuffed mushrooms Mom packed in my lunch were gone at lunch period. My sandwich was still there so I didn't starve to death, but I sure missed those mushrooms."

After the first of the year, he has another issue:

"My little cheesecake was missing at lunchtime which made me mad."

Leigh begins to toy with the idea of putting a burglar alarm on his lunchbag, but realizes the impossibility of the notion, deciding instead to load his lunchbag with Scotch tape, which turns out to be more of a hassle than it's worth, so he's again on the lookout.

"Yesterday somebody stole a piece of wedding cake from my lunchbag.

It was the kind Catering by Katy packs in little white boxes for people to take home from weddings. Mr. Fridley noticed me scowling and said, 'So the lunchbag thief strikes again!'"

In February, the problem's still around: "By lunchtime I was hungry again,

and when I found my little cheesecake missing, I was mad all over again."

Eventually he discovers a way to begin building a battery-operated alarm, and obtains a black lunchbox. The first day he takes it, he discovers that his

"little slices of salami rolled around cream cheese are gone..."

Eventually, he gets the alarm, and installs it,

managing to keep even the most usual of suspects (Editor's Note: That's a Humberto up there, yo.) away from his pail, leaving him to write Mr. Henshaw and tell him that "several kids turned up with lunchboxes with burglar alarms."

If you'd like to examine a list of books by Beverly Cleary, you can do so, and even purchase them here. And don't forget, on Sunday, to Drop Everything And Read, even if it's just the TV Guide. Happy Easter, y'all.


Cecil said...

Best FFF ever.

I found myself thinking about this book just the other day.