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Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary



Book Summary Novel Activities Vocabulary Words Writing Activities Discussion Topics Online Test




Book Summary


Leigh has been writing to his favorite author, Mr. Henshaw, since he was in second grade. Now in sixth grade, Leigh is assigned to do an author report and naturally chooses to send his questions to Mr. Henshaw. The author replies with some silly answers, but unexpectedly, his response also includes some questions for Leigh to answer. Initially, Leigh is angry and refuses to do any extra work. However, at his mother's request, Leigh takes the time to answer the questions. The book is told entirely through Leigh's letters to Mr. Henshaw, as well as his journal entries. Gradually, his letters reveal the difficulties in his life, like his parents' divorce, being the new kid at school, and having a neglectful father. By writing his thoughts on paper, Leigh is able to overcome some of these difficulties and comes to terms with those he cannot control. Dear Mr. Henshaw contains humor and sadness as Leigh matures and learns that no matter how bad things seem, life will go on.


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Novel Activities


1. Leigh loves his dog Bandit very much, and he’s devastated when his dad loses him. Using details Leigh has revealed about Bandit, create a Lost Dog poster for him.

2. As you read Dear Mr. Henshaw, look for details that develop the main character, Leigh, and record them on a piece of paper. Then, decide if Leigh is a round character or a flat character.

3. Mr. Henshaw's ninth question for Leigh is, "What bothers you?" Leigh lists a few things that bother him in his answer, but as we read on, it becomes apparent there are many more. Keep a list of both the directly-stated things that bother Leigh, as well as the things you can infer (figure out).


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Vocabulary Words


diorama hauls bales barreling
refinery snitch wrath gondola
breakers rig muffle fad


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Writing Activities


Sensory/Descriptive: An acrostic poem begins with a word written vertically. Then, lines are written horizontally beginning with each letter of the original word, and they describe the word in detail. Choose a character from Dear Mr. Henshaw. Write an acrostic poem using his/her name.


Imaginative/Narrative: Leigh's truck driver dad mentions that he often comes across one shoe lying on the highway. He always wondered how it got there and what happened to its mate. Mom, Dad, and Leigh have fun making up poems to explain what may have happened. Write your own imaginative story to explain how a lone shoe ended up on the highway. What kind of shoe is it? Where did it come from? What happened to its mate? Who is telling the story—the owner, the shoe, a truck driver, a narrator?


Analytical/Persuasive: One way to help someone win an award is to nominate him/her. A nomination often consists of a persuasive essay explaining why a person deserves an award. Choose a character from the book who you feel deserves an award. Write a persuasive essay to explain why the character should receive the award.


Practical/Informative: Mr. Henshaw was a very special person to Leigh. Think of a teacher who is special to you. Write that teacher a friendly letter. Why was this teacher so special? Do you have a specific memory? What are some examples that show how this teacher was special? Would you like to thank this teacher?


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Discussion/Journal Topics


November 16: “…She says I can’t go through life expecting everyone to do everything for me.”

December 13: “The first page still looks the way I feel. Blank.”

January 15: “I don’t think Dad is that much interested in me. He didn’t phone when he said he would.”

February 5: “’You know,’ said Mom, ‘whenever I watch the waves, I always feel that no matter how bad things seem, life will still go on.’”


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Online Test


Your students can take an online test with immediate results at:

Dear Mr. Henshaw Online Test


The Professional Development Institute has a complete literature unit for this novel. For more information, click the link below.

Dear Mr. Henshaw Literature Unit (Check out the sample pages!)


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