Henry Reed, Inc.

Henry Reed, Inc. by Keith Robertson (1958) This is one of the most important children's books for me, that I read several times when I was a kid, and have re-read as an adult. I feel like it's not dated at all, but I don't know if young kids would feel that way. At this point it's maybe an adult book, and it's written in a way that it appeals to adults, I think, as well as kids. I think the adventure parts probably appeal more to kids, and the humor more to adults. Of course, for me it's impossible to separate it from my nostalgia for it. It's about a young boy, Henry Reed, whose parents are diplomats, so he lives overseas, but comes back to stay with his aunt and uncle in New Jersey for the summer and decides to keep a journal of his summer—so it's written in journal form. I think this is the first thing that influenced me to keep a journal, when I was 12, and I've done it ever since. Henry meets his only similarly aged neighbor (they're pretty much in a rural setting), a girl named Midge, and they start a “research” firm together, kind of a summer business, but also for fun. They have quite a bit of success all around. One thing that is impressive to me, reading it now, is the really full portrait you get of these two kids, and the idea of how as people mature, one aspect of their personalty matures faster than the other, which leads to interesting misinterpretations and miscommunication. Henry is like a little a adult in a way, very smart, but still kind of clueless in other ways, like what's behind some of his own motives. One of the running jokes is Henry not getting Midge's sense of humor, which is much more advanced and adult-like than his. Despite their differences, though, they do become close friends, and there are sequels to this book on the horizon. Keith Robertson is one of my favorite children's authors, and I've read many books by him and probably will re-read more. One other note—there have been a lot of re-printings of this book over the years, but you can still find the Viking hardcover, which I recommend. At the very least you must get a version with the original illustrations by Robert McCloskey (the great children's author, and illustrator)—as they are absolutely integral to the book.