This humorous book is not in a series but is the first in a collection of four books that feature Henry Huggins as the main character. Written by Beverly Cleary, the Henry Huggins Collection is published by HarperTrophy, which is an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
Henry Huggins is written for kids ages 8 to 12. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Henry Huggins is an ordinary third-grader who feels that nothing interesting ever happens to him — until one day he rescues a stray dog and decides to adopt it. Because the dog's ribs show through his skin, Henry calls him "Ribsy." Immediately, life becomes an adventure.
Henry needs to take a bus home, but the bus driver has strict rules about animals. So Henry finds a shopping bag big enough to hold his new dog and climbs aboard. Unfortunately, Ribsy escapes and disrupts the passengers. The driver insists that Henry and Ribsy get off the bus. At that moment, a police car drives by and the policeman offers Henry and Ribsy a ride home.
Animal lover Henry buys Ribsy horsemeat at a pet store. He, also, decides to buy a pair of guppies. Before he knows it, the two guppies multiply into hundreds of guppies. He puts them in glass jars, which are put all over his bedroom. Henry finds that taking care of so many fish doesn't leave much time for fun with his friends. At last Henry decides to sell the guppies back to the pet store. With the money, he buys a small catfish instead.
Having a dog is expensive, and Henry spends much of his allowance on things that Ribsy needs. One day he decides to save for a football like the one his friend Scooter has. The football cost Scooter $13. As Henry is tossing the football to Scooter one day, it flies into the window of a passing car. Henry promises to replace the football, but he must find a way to earn the money to pay for it. Collecting night crawlers proves profitable, because a neighbor offers Henry a penny for each one he catches. Just as Henry has enough to pay Scooter for the football, the original football is returned by the man whose car it flew into. Henry now has enough money to buy a football of his own.
When parts are cast for the school operetta, Henry is glad to hear that there aren't enough parts for everyone to participate. Unfortunately, Miss Roop decides that Henry will be perfect playing the part of Timmy, the little boy who dreams the Christmas story. The worst thing about playing Timmy is that an eighth-grade girl who plays his mother will kiss him. Henry is so embarrassed that he begins thinking of ways to avoid having to participate. He tries to type a letter to Miss Roop as though it were from Mrs. Huggins, explaining that Henry is too sick to take part in the play, but he misspells the words in it. In the end, Ribsy saves the day. The dog interrupts practice and upsets a can of green paint. It spills all over Henry. A green Henry is unable to participate in the play.
Although Ribsy is a mutt, Henry decides to enter him in a dog show to see if he will win a prize. He bathes Ribsy in the bathtub, but when they arrive at the park, Ribsy decides to roll in the mud. Desperate to clean his dog quickly, Henry sprinkles him with talcum powder to make Ribsy's white patches look cleaner. To Henry's surprise, the powder makes Ribsy's fur turn pink instead of white. The judges award Ribsy a cup for being the most unusual dog in the show.
Just when Ribsy has established himself as a favorite neighborhood dog, a strange boy shows up claiming that Ribsy's real name is Dizzy and that he is the true owner. Henry protests. He believes he is the real owner because he has taken good care of Ribsy since finding him as a puppy on the street. Henry's friends say that they have come to love Ribsy and that Henry should be the rightful owner. At last the two boys allow Ribsy to decide. They put the dog between them and call Ribsy by name. Ribsy chooses Henry as his owner, which delights all the children on Klickitat Street.
Mrs. Huggins is often exasperated with Henry's antics, such as when Henry brings home a new dog or a pair of guppies that multiply into several hundred. However, she and Mr. Huggins accept his love of animals and allow these creatures in their home. Mr. Huggins even helps Henry find pickle jars that he can use to hold the extra guppies.
Henry and his friends like and respect their teacher, Miss Roop. Miss Roop likes Henry so much that she assigns him "the best part in the school play," a character who must wear pajamas and be kissed good night by a girl playing Henry's mother.
Other belief systems
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- Henry doesn't have a brother or sister, but he does love his dog, Ribsy, very much.
How would you describe their relationship?
What kinds of things do you do with our pet (or would you do if we had a pet)?
Do you ever talk to your pet (or would you like to talk to a pet), as Henry does?
What kind of pet would you like?
- How does Henry break the rules to get Ribsy home on the bus?
Why do buses have rules?
What else could Henry have done?
Tell about a time when you had to come up with a solution that didn't break the rules.
- Henry is surprised when his two guppies multiply into hundreds.
Were you surprised?
Why does Mrs. Huggins tell Henry that he must get rid of all the guppies?
- How does Henry earn extra money to pay for Scooter's football?
What have you lost or broken and had to pay for with your own money? Explain.
- What part does Miss Roop assign Henry to perform in the school play?
How does Henry try to avoid playing the part?
Can you think of a time that your teacher asked you to do something that embarrassed you?
What did you do?
- How does Henry feel when Ribsy rolls in the mud and won't perform tricks in the dog show?
Tell about a time when you wanted to show off something but couldn't.
- What is Ribsy's other name?
Who do you think is Ribsy's true owner — the boy who owned him first or Henry?
What surprised you about how the boys decided Risby's owner?
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