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Literature / Henry Huggins

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Henry Huggins is a collection of children's book series written by Beverly Cleary, following the daily exploits of the titular character as he tries to find some excitement in his life, and often getting much more than what he bargained for.

There are a total of six books in the series, including:

  • Henry Huggins (1950) — 8-year old Henry is bored with his routine, and wishes for something exciting to happen. His desire is answered when he found Ribsy, a stray dog whom he later adopts. Since then, Henry's life was never the same, as Ribsy's colourful hijinks brings plenty of thrills to his daily life, for better or for worse.
  • Henry and Beezus (1952) — Henry wants to get a bicycle of his own, but his parents are on tight budget and could not buy it for him. Determined to get a bike for himself, Henry attempts to hold various fund raising projects (such as selling bubble gum) to earn enough money for it. He is helped by his good friend, Beezus.
  • Henry and Ribsy (1954) — Henry's father is planning to go for salmon fishing with their neighbor Mr. Grumby. He agrees to let Henry comes along on one condition: keep Ribsy out of trouble for two months. Although Henry thinks that he's got Ribsy under control, his father's challenge proves to be much harder than he thought it would be.
  • Henry and the Paper Route (1957) — Henry, once again unsatisfied with his life, wants to accomplish "important things" and eagerly jumps at the chance when his friend Scooter informs him of a job opening as a paper boy. Henry believes that he's responsible enough for the job, having served as Scooter's substitute when the latter is otherwise unavailable, despite being technically too young for it, but perhaps the tasks required to handle his own paper route is really too much?
  • Henry and the Clubhouse (1962) — Henry and his two friends Robert and Murphy want to build their own clubhouse, which they eventually decide to be a "boys only" club. But trouble soon hits their new club when Ramona Quimby decides that she wants to be a part of this whole affair.
  • Ribsy (1964) — When Ribsy accidentally jumps into the wrong car while waiting for Henry as he and his family are shopping in the mall, he gets taken in by a different family who lives in another town. Thus, Ribsy's adventure to return to his owner begins.

See also Ramona Quimby, which takes place in the same neighborhood, and serves as its Sequel Series.

The books contain examples of:

  • Acronyms Are Easy as Aybeecee: In Henry and Ribsy, Ramona overhears Beezus and Henry talking about the PTA (Parent-Teacher Association) and thinks they're spelling out the name of a food they don't want her to have. Even when they tell her that the PTA is just a bunch of ladies talking, she demands to be given PTA. They resort to buying a small bag of potato chips and telling her it's PTA.
  • Adoptive Name Change: Henry's dog Ribsy was initially named Dizzy but Henry mistook him for a stray and named him Ribsy. The dog's original owner tries to get him back, but by then, Ribsy has bonded with Henry.
  • The All-American Boy: Henry embodies this trope: he's a white, middle-class boy who lives in Everytown, America with his well-adjusted family. He spends his days playing ball with his friends, cycling along the neighbourhood with his dog, or going fishing with his dad.
  • Angry Guard Dog: In Henry and the Clubhouse, Henry is tasked with selling a paper subscription to a woman who just moved in — and who owns a vicious Dalmatian named Ranger who tries to kill Ribsy and chases Henry away every time he comes near the house. Henry accidentally solves the problem on Halloween when he scares Ranger with an owl on a stick.
    • Ribsy also kicks in on this when Henry's parents task him with taking out the trash. Turns out Ribsy decides this means Henry owns the trash and defends it from the garbage men who come to collect it.
  • Ascended Extra: Beezus was introduced in the first book as one of Those Two Girls whom Henry sometimes hang out with. From the second book onwards, she becomes one of Henry's closest friends and is featured even more frequently than his best friend Robert.
  • The Baby of the Bunch: Henry is the youngest of the mail carriers who deliver the Journal. Because of that, it is very important for him to do his job correctly, or his boss won't think he's responsible enough for it.
  • Bratty Half-Pint: Ramona, Beezus' bratty younger sister who likes to follow Henry and Beezus around, then cause a scene by screaming loudly and throwing a tantrum when she doesn't get what she wants.
  • Breakout Character: In Henry's story, Ramona Quimby plays a minor role as Beezus's Annoying Younger Sibling, but becomes so popular that she was given her own series that would overshadow this one.
  • Break the Haughty: In Henry and Ribsy, Scooter and Robert make fun of Henry after his parents give him a Traumatic Haircut. Henry's mother then tells the other mothers about the sale on clippers, which leads to all the boys getting similar terrible hairstyles.
  • The Bully: Henry's older friend Scooter briefly turns into a bully when he and Henry get into competition for a paper route.
  • Canine Companion: Henry is almost never seen without his dog, Ribsy.
  • Canon Welding: A chapter of Otis Spofford had the titular character doing a favor for an older boy from Zachary Taylor High School, and mentions his team will be playing Benjamin Harrison High School. Eleven years later (production-wise), Ribsy ends up at a football game between these same two schools during the events of Ribsy, showing that they take place in the same universe.
  • Censorship by Spelling: Inverted in Henry and Ribsy. Henry has no idea what Ramona means when she hears everyone talking about "PTA" (Parent-Teachers Association) and insists that she wants some. Beezus figures out that Ramona thinks that they're spelling out something tasty they don't want her to have, like "c-o-o-k-i-e-s" or "c-a-n-d-y". This leads to them having to buy a snack for Ramona and telling her that it's PTA.
  • Character Overlap: With the Ramona Quimby books, which he frequently pops up in. Justified, as both series are set in the same place.
  • Child Prodigy: Murph, the new kid introduced in The Paper Route, is smart enough to build his own robot and phone line. Henry and the others consider him a genius.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Murph. After being introduced in Henry and the Paper Route and being a main character in Henry and the Clubhouse, he isn't even mentioned in Ribsy (justified in that the book is focused on Ribsy's adventures; Henry himself, along with his parents, are about the only existing characters to get any screentime).
  • The Compliance Game: Henry and his friend are assigned to look for bugs for biology class. They get the little neighbour boy to help by saying, "Let's pretend we're scientists looking for specimens".
  • Cool Bike: Henry spends the entirety of the second book (Henry and Beezus) pining after the beautiful red bicycle displayed in the Bike Shop near his house.
  • Covers Always Lie: Some later reprints depict the wrong breed of dog for Ribsy on the cover. Kind of worse than usual because Ribsy isn't a breed. He's explicitly a random mutt of no particular lineage.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Ribsy follows the adventures of Henry's lost dog, with Henry himself taking a much smaller role.
  • DIY Dentistry: In Henry and Ribsy, Henry pulls two loose teeth (that happen to be his canines) out by tying them to a tug-of-war rope and having Ribsy pull them out.
  • Dogs Are Dumb: Zigzagged with Ribsy. He's definitely untrained, and often cause Henry trouble by fighting with other dogs, chasing the neighbour's cat, digging up their flower patches, and stealing newspapers. At the same time, he can play tug of war, wait at Henry's school while the latter is in class and was able to somehow communicate with Henry through a phone.
  • Eating Pet Food: While visiting a grand opening ceremony for a mall near the end of Henry and Beezus, Henry comes across a dog food stall and asks the vendor if he could get a free sample. The vendor tells him that he'd give Henry some free samples if he eats the dog food. Henry agrees, and noted that it's not actually that bad (which is Truth in Television. Dog food is basically just canned meat that has no taste, but it is not inedible).
  • Everytown, America: In effect. The series takes place in Portland, Oregon, mostly on Klickitat Street — but it's written as a peaceful, suburban district where everyone knows everyone, real conflicts are scarce, and nothing much ever happens.
  • Explosive Breeder: Halfway through the first book, Henry bought himself a pair of guppies that was on sale in the pet shop. Within a few pages, their numbers have increased to about a thousand — his bed room becomes full of guppy jars, and he had to spend all of his free time and pocket money to take care of them. By the time he returns them to the shop, he finds out they're worth seven dollars in store credit, which is enough to buy a catfish tank while his father buys a catfish.
  • Fantasy-Forbidding Father: All the kids in Klickitat Street are impressed that Murph is capable of building his own robot. Murph's father disagrees, and thinks that his son's hobbies is a waste of time (especially since Murph had to work to buy his robot parts, taking more of his free time).
  • The Generic Guy: Henry's best friend Robert. He's not a Jerk with a Heart of Gold like Scooter, a Bratty Half-Pint like Ramona, nor a Child Prodigy like Murph. His personality was pretty much the same as Henry's but less developed. Robert rarely plays an active role in the books, or makes any significant impact to Henry's life — he's mostly just following along the antics of his other friends and remains in the background the rest of the time.
  • Girls Have Cooties: Downplayed. Henry isn't against hanging out with the neighborhood girls, but he does frequently react with disgust if he sees Mary Jane act particularly girly. He doesn't mind Beezus as much (because Beezus is a Tomboy), even commending her as being "sensible, for a girl", but even then he's still not too comfortable to go out alone with her because she is a girl.
  • Hates Baths: Ribsy hates water and would struggle and yelp and whine if Henry tries to give him a bath.
  • In-Series Nickname: Beezus is actually named Beatrice, but almost nobody calls her that.
  • Insufferable Genius: Murph, at first. He lightens up.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Scooter is an obnoxious show-off who often behaves like he's better than Henry and the rest of his group simply because he's older than them and has a bike. But he usually shares his good stuff with the others, and can be a dependable friend if need be. In the first book's climax, he was the one who fairly settled the conflict of Ribsy's ownership between Henry and Ribsy's previous owner.
  • Let Him Choose: When Ribsy's original owner shows up and wants his dog back, they decide to let Ribsy choose. He goes with Henry, of course. May be the Trope Codifier, because of its popularity.
  • Mistaken for Stray: In one story, Henry adopts a dog and names him Ribsy. However, another boy arrives, claiming that "Ribsy" is actually named Dizzy and is his dog. However, the dog prefers living with Henry and being named Ribsy.
  • My Hair Came Out Green: In the first book, Henry wanted to enter Ribsy into a dog competition, but Ribsy got himself muddy on their way to the park. Not having the time to bathe him, Henry tries to cover up the dirt patches with white powder (since Ribsy is partially white), and is horrified to find out that the powder is pink.
  • My New Gift Is Lame: In the second book, Henry wins a lottery during the opening of a new mall and is horrified to discover that his prize is a set of beauty coupons. Subverted when Beezus offers to buy one of his coupons. Henry's mothers and her friends do the same, which gives Henry the money he needs to buy his bike. The other boys who initially laughed at his winnings did a 180 and wished that they had won it instead.
  • Nothing Exciting Ever Happens Here: Most of the books would open with Henry getting bored with his life, then follows the funny shenanigans that he encounters when he finally found something interesting to pursue.
  • Not What It Looks Like: In Henry and Ribsy, Ramona steals Ribsy's bone and shoves it in her lunchbox as revenge for him eating her ice cream cone, then gets upset when she hears Beezus and Henry talking about the P.T.A. and thinks they're spelling the name of some food she's not allowed to have. She runs up the jungle gym, crying because she wants P.T.A., and Ribsy follows her, wanting his bone back. Several of the P.T.A. mothers come outside and immediately assume Ribsy is a mean dog who has chased Ramona up the jungle gym and trapped her there. They almost call the pound to take Ribsy away until Miss Mullen, the school principal, hears Henry out and gives him a chance to explain that Ribsy isn't trying to bite Ramona and he just wants his bone.
  • Odd Friendship: In The Paper Route, Henry purchased four kittens from a garage sale. Ribsy develops friendship with a particularly lively black cat and the family ended up keeping it (and naming him Nosy), while donating the rest to the pet shop.
  • Parental Bonus: In Ribsy, the first family Ribsy meets on his adventure starts singing the refrain to "Sweet Violets". Thank goodness they didn't sing any verses, as they are absolutely filthy.
  • Peer-Pressured Bully: In Henry and the Clubhouse, Henry doesn't really agree with the "no girls allowed" rule of the clubhouse he's building with his friends, but he feels he has to agree even if it hurts Beezus' feelings.
  • Pintsized Kid: A downplayed example: Henry is noted to be the smallest guy in his class, which is why he was cast as Timmy, the little boy in his School Play in the first book. He is far from pleased with this, as the others began calling him "Little Boy". This doesn't come up in future storylines, however, and Henry's size is never mentioned again.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Henry and Beezus are very close friends and the two often visit each other's house to play checkers. Aside from Ribsy and his parents, Beezus is shown to be the one Henry hangs out the most with, even though Robert is supposed to be his best friend instead of her. In Henry and the Paper Route the school kids tease them about their relationship when Beezus defends Henry from Scooter, but nothing ever comes out of this, and by the time the Ramona series rolls around, it's implied that they've drifted apart.
  • Running Gag: Beezus trouncing Henry at checkers.
  • Smart People Wear Glasses: Murph, whose most defining characteristic is his intelligence, is also the only character who is explicitly stated to wear glasses.
  • Sweet and Sour Grapes: Just as Henry earns enough money to buy Scooter a football that he lost, with his parents helping him, a man comes to his front door and returns the football, apologizing for not coming sooner. Henry is thrilled not only that he's off the hook but also that he can buy a football for himself.
  • Teen Genius: Murph is an 11-year-old who is smart enough to (almost) build his own robot and later offers to build a private telephone line for Henry and Robert when his robot project gets put on hold.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Beezus and Mary Jane. The latter is dainty, wears dresses and dislikes getting herself dirty. The former is very sensible, wears shirts and jeans, and doesn't mind playing in the dirt with the boys. Naturally, Henry is closer to Beezus than he is to Mary Jane.
  • Traumatic Haircut: Henry's parents give him one in Henry and Ribsy while trying on electric hair clippers his mother got on sale. The resulting haircut looks like his hair has been chewed up.
  • Troublesome Pet: Ribsy is often considered a nuisance by the neighbors and causes all sorts of trouble for Henry by chasing his neighbor's cat, ruining their flowerbeds, stealing food and newspapers, etc. This becomes a major plot point in Henry and Ribsy, where Mr. Huggins's requirement for allowing Henry to join his fishing trip is to keep Ribsy out of trouble for two weeks.
  • Unsuccessful Pet Adoption: When Henry adopts two guppies, they reproduce like crazy and he feels he has to sell them all because guppies give live birth and he can't tell which ones might be pregnant.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Henry and Scooter McCarthy. Being older than the rest of Henry's group, Scooter often belittles Henry and especially Ribsy. Most of them are in jest, of course, and Scooter actually came to Ribsy's defense when his previous owner tried to take him back at the end of book 1, and would trust Henry to do his paper route when he's otherwise unavailable.