Henry and Ribsy

How many favorite authors is one person allowed to have?

I’m hoping the number isn’t too low. For me, there’s going to have to be some kind of extension on my limit, because I can think of ten or twelve authors right now that would—and should—be right on top of that list. Some of them are newer additions, people like Cornelia Funke and Victor Hugo, who I just discovered in the last few years. Others have been my favorite since I first started reading.

One of my very first favorite authors, one I’ve been reading since I was six or seven, is Beverly Cleary.

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Beverly Cleary was one of the first authors who taught me to enjoy reading. I connected with her characters in a very personal way. Ramona especially was very important to me growing up, and I read her books over and over again. They were simple, interesting, and always enjoyable to read, no matter how well I knew the story.

Henry and Ribsy is another of her books that has lasted through the years for me. I must have been eight when I first picked up this book, and it still sits on my shelf today. Henry’s adventures, most of them involving chasing after his trouble-seeking mutt Ribsy, were a constant source of entertainment for me when I was younger. When I was that age, we lived in the mountains of Colorado, and our closest neighbors were deer, turkeys, and the black bears that appeared in our backyard to dig through our trash, steal food out of our freezers, and generally make nuisances of themselves. A dog that protected the trash from the trash men, stole a sack lunch from the front seat of a police car, and had a taste for ice-cream cones was something new and exciting for me.

There aren’t many things that Henry Huggins wants more than to be allowed to go salmon fishing with his father. He’s never been allowed to go before, but he’s sure that if he goes—just once—he’ll catch himself a salmon and finally have something to brag about to Scooter McCarthy, who has been fishing before and is quick to make sure Henry knows that, even if he did manage to hook one, he’d never be able to land it. Henry’s father is skeptical as well, but he agrees to bring Henry along the next time he goes.

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There’s only one catch.

Ribsy has to stay out of trouble until they leave.

In September.

So, all summer, Henry does his very best to keep Ribsy out of trouble. And Ribsy? He does his very best to make as much trouble as he can. From mischief with the P.T.A to trouble with the garbage man, Ribsy finds ways to make trouble everywhere he turns. And yet, despite his bad record, Henry is able to keep his dog corralled for the two months his father stipulated. At last, his fishing trip is guaranteed . . . if he can just keep Ribsy quiet on the boat.

Henry and Ribsy is one of Beverly Cleary’s best books. Her grasp of the simple, yet important, troubles in a child’s life continue to capture my attention. Anyone looking for a good, solid book to hand to their children should definitely consider any of Ms. Cleary’s works.

“I never heard of anyone having a dog pull his teeth before. Maybe I can get him to pull the next one I have loose.”

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