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Book Review

This book has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the first in a collection of four books that feature Henry Huggins as the main character.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

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.

Christian Beliefs


Other Belief Systems


Authority Roles

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.





Discussion Topics

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Additional Comments/Notes

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Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

8 to 12




Beverly Cleary






Record Label



HarperTrophy, which is an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers


On Video

Year Published





We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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