Dear Mr Henshaw

Root Words Spoons GameDear Mr Henshaw uses a unique storytelling method. The entire book is a series of letters and diary entries. This means the main character tells his deepest emotions to the reader through a ‘personal means’ creating a close connection to the reader.

The book begins when Leigh is in 2nd grade. He writes a letter to his favorite author Mr. Henshaw for a class assignment. A new letter to Mr Henshaw follows each year until Leigh becomes a 6th grader. Leigh’s 6th-grade year is the focus of the majority of the novel.

Dear Mr Henshaw Book Summary

Leigh Botts loves author Boyd Henshaw. Naturally, when he is asked to write an author study he selects Mr. Henshaw. Surprisingly Mr. Henshaw writes back. He answers Leigh’s questions with a series of ten of his questions. Leigh slowly answers them all in a series of letters that tell about his life.

Leigh lives in California with his mom. His mother and father are divorced which causes Leigh a lot of pain. Dad is a trucker who travels long distances with a dog named Bandit. Dad forgets to call Leigh which leaves Leigh feeling depressed.

Leigh is the new kid in school. He doesn’t make friends easily. Leigh thinks of himself as average – the “mediumest” kid in the school. Because Leigh’s house is so lonely after Mom leaves in the morning, Leigh heads out to school early. Mr. Fridley, the custodian, notices Leigh and asks him to help him raise the flag each day. Mr. Fridley shows an interest in Leigh after this and guides him in the right direction when Leigh is upset over his stolen lunch items.

In his letters, Mr. Henshaw encourages Leigh to keep a diary. Leigh writes and writes telling about his ups and downs – mostly downs.

Problem #1

Leigh spends a good bit of time telling about his father. Since the divorce, Leigh rarely sees his father. Dad promises to call but never does. Leigh studies maps to track his father’s long-distance hauls. Leigh is comforted by the thought that dad has a traveling companion – Bandit – to travel with him. One snowy day Dad stops in the Sierras to put chains on his truck. The storm is getting fierce. Dad lets Bandit out of the cab to run for a minute but forgets to leave the door open so Bandit can get back inside the truck. When the wheels are chained up, Bandit doesn’t come to Dad’s whistle, so Dad leaves without him. This upsets Leigh greatly…

Problem #2

Since Mom works for a caterer, Leigh gets special treats in his lunch bag each day. A lunch thief steals these treats regularly. Since Leigh is not a snitch, he must figure out how to solve the problem on his own. Leigh comes up with a great plan…

Problem #3

Leigh’s school is creating a Young Writer’s Yearbook. Leigh wants to enters, so he will have a chance to meet a famous author, even if it isn’t Mr. Henshaw. Leigh struggles with what to write. He writes one story about a big man-made of wax. The story is not good…

Read Dr. Mr. Henshaw to learn how Leigh solves his problems.

Download the free book unit sample here.

Activities for
Dear Mr. Henshaw

Free Dear Mr Henshaw Book Unit Samples

Grab your free novel study samples including vocabulary, comprehension questions, and constructed response writing prompt here.

Leigh’s Stolen Eggs

From November 23 – Mom and Katy and some other ladies make fancy food for weddings and parties. They also bake cheesecake and apple strudel for restaurants. Mom is a good cook. I just wish she would do it more at home, like the mother in Moose on Toast. Almost every day Katy gives Mom something good to put in my school lunch…

From December 4 – 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. She puts a little curry powder in with the mashed-up yolk which she squirts out of a tube so it looks like a rose.

Student eating egg salad sandwich.While I’ve never had students make deviled eggs, we have made deviled egg sandwiches. Students really enjoyed this fun treat.

Room mothers love helping with fun projects. Have them make the deviled egg yolk mixture ahead of time and placed it in Ziploc bags. Students cut the corner off the bag. Next, they squirt the egg mixture into the egg white in a flower-like design. Students could dress up their eggs with small sprigs of green onion, parsley, sunflower seeds, carrot slivers, or a large number of other toppings. Sprinkle eggs with spices such as paprika. Take many pictures before eating.

Lunchbox Alarm

Tie a science lesson about closed and open circuits into your novel study. This video shows how to create a simple lunchbox alarm. The alarm triggers when the circuit is closed. 

Dear Mr Henshaw Audio Book

Youtube has dozens of videos featuring people reading Dear Mr. Henshaw. Some show the text while others show the reader. Célangé Santiso Black shows a digital version of the book which makes following along easy for students. She also asks discussion questions to point out story details.

Dear Mr Henshaw Teaching Ideas On the Web

Scholastic provides a list of activities to do while reading Dear Mr. Henshaw.  These include some great writing prompts.

Butterfly Garden

Leigh describes his experience in the butterfly garden on February 7.

Then the sun came out from behind a cloud. The sticks began to move, and slowly they opened wings and turned into orange and black butterflies, thousands of them quivering on one tree. Then they began to float off through the trees in the sunshine. Those clouds of butterflies were so beautiful I felt good all over and just stood there watching them until the fog began to roll in, and the butterflies came back and turned into brown sticks again. They made me think of a story Mom used to read me about Cinderella returning from the ball.

Before students read Leigh’s description of the walk through the butterfly garden, show this 3-minute nature video from PBS, so students can experience seeing the butterflies the way Leigh does. Next, have students write descriptive paragraphs depicting the butterflies as they ‘wake up’ and take off. Have students compare their descriptions to Beverly Cleary’s in February 7. 

Discuss:

  • show, don’t tell
  • the use of descriptive adjectives, adverbs, and verbs
  • figurative language

Free Book Unit Samples

Grab your free novel study samples including vocabulary, comprehension questions, and constructed response writing prompt here.

Purchase the full unit on Teachers Pay Teachers.

Teaching Ideas to use with Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary - Grab a free vocabulary, comprehension questions, and constructed writing prompts which is great for upper elementary including 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders.
Teaching Ideas to use with Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary - Grab a free vocabulary, comprehension questions, and constructed writing prompts which is great for upper elementary including 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders.
Teaching Ideas to use with Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary - Grab a free vocabulary, comprehension questions, and constructed writing prompts which is great for upper elementary including 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders.
Teaching Ideas to use with Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary - Grab a free vocabulary, comprehension questions, and constructed writing prompts which is great for upper elementary including 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders.

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