05 May 2011

Character Connection 24

Jen is observing Holocaust Remembrance Week at her blog, but this month I'm all about mothers and am blogging accordingly.

The following character is the first who came to mind when I decided to make Mothers the theme for May. There were a few minutes in the draft stage when I thought about starting with a more "high profile" mother character . . . but in the end, I decided to follow my completely subjective heart. Behold one of my all-time favourite mothers in children's literature . . .

Mrs. Huggins
Henry Huggins
by Beverly Cleary

. . . "Mother, I've found a dog. I sure wish I could keep him. He's a good dog and I'd feed him and wash him and everything. Please, Mom."

"I don't know, dear," his mother said. "You'll have to ask your father."

"Mom!" Henry wailed. "That's what you always say! . . . Mom, please say yes and I'll never ask for another thing for as long as I live!"

"Well, all right, Henry. I guess there isn't any reason you shouldn't have a dog. But you'll have to bring him home on the bus. Your father has the car today and I can't come after you. Can you manage?"

Naturally suspicious readers might wonder whether Henry's mother was laying an impossible condition on him. Surely she must have known there was no way he could have brought a dog home on the bus! I tend to think the best of parents in children's books, however, and I doubt my trust in this mother is misplaced. When she tells her son that it was all right for him to bring home a dog, she means it.

I think the best thing about Mrs. Huggins is that she is so willing to let Henry be himself that she can be genuinely surprised at the things he gets himself into. Psychologists have pointed out that children start out thinking of their parents as extensions of themselves. I believe something similar can be said of parents, especially when their children are still young. Hence the delight of many--and the annoyance of some--when their children innocently start asserting their own individuality. Mrs. Huggins could very easily have said no to the new dog and engineered an "ideal" pet scenario for her son--something more convenient for her, like a trip to the pet store on a day she has the car. But she lets her reluctance give way to respect for him as an individual: she can tell that he has already found his ideal pet scenario.

She just doesn't expect it to get as complicated as it does when Henry's new dog causes a commotion on the bus and the driver nearly throws them both into the rain. =P

What follows is the famously sighed, "Henry, what will you do next?" And although her son points out that he only did what she told him to, he obviously takes it as a challenge. Mrs. Huggins' gentle bewilderment at what Henry can come up with runs like a refrain through many of the stories in this book and its sequels. And although we don't always see her reactions to Henry's mishaps, we smile inwardly with him as he muses to his faithful dog, "Won't Mom be surprised!"

Image Source: Henry Huggins by Beverly Cleary


bex said...

Sometimes I'm sad that I've missed out on so much here in Sweden. I haven't even heard of this book before, but I love the sound of it.

When I first read the quote, I actually didn't connect to the fact that she might have been laying an impossible condition on him. I was more following your thoughts! I think this was a really great post and a great idea to have a mothers theme for May month. I'm glad you didn't go with a "high profile" mother character, I really liked that you brought Mrs. Huggins into the spotlight. :)

Enbrethiliel said...


As someone pointed out to me recently, reading is one big game of catch-up that nobody wins. You just have to hope you read more good books than you miss! And I do recommend Beverly Cleary's books, especially those featuring Ramona Quimby. (She also has more "mature"--but still rather innocent--YA novels, if Middle Grade isn't your style.)

I'll be doing another mother character next week and the week after. I'm not sure whether I'll be able to come up with a fourth that I really want to write about--although of course I'm keeping an open mind. ;-)

Thanks for dropping by, Bex!

Katie said...

This is a really great idea for a post! I definitely want to read and re-read some Henry Huggins books now to get a better sense of his mother. The little snippet you posted here is wonderfu1!

pennyyak said...

A boy and his dog, classic combination. Getting themselves in trouble, which is why people write about boys and dogs.

And you write about his mom. Ah, but you're an original, En.

bex said...

@ Enbrethiliel: Oh, that is a very nice way of putting it! And so true. Hmm... I will have to take a look at them at least! Thanks. :)

I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for the next posts!

CHE said...

I love that you picked a mother character from a children's book. Generally, i find that 'tragic' mothers are thought of as 'inspiring'. This is a refreshing take on the subject. Very well written. Must look up the book now.

Enbrethiliel said...


Katie -- Thanks! This post was actually inspired by the chapter "Henry and the Nightcrawlers" because that's where his mother helps him catch worms. =P I don't know many other fictional mothers, no matter how loving, who would do something like that! (LOL)

Penny -- I love boys and their dogs, too, but I had enough to last me a year when I did the Norman Rockwell Painting Smackdown last year. ;-)

And well, I've always loved Mrs. Huggins!

Bex -- Why not join Character Connection as well? =) Jen has the linky up every Thursday, and it's always nice to have someone new sharing a post and commenting on ours.

CHE -- Hi! Thanks for your comment. =) The other two mothers I'm certain I'd like to write about aren't very tragic at all, so I hope the theme stays refreshing for the rest of the month.

On another note, I've noticed that there are an incredible number of orphaned or motherless children in MG and YA novels. But that just adds an element of challenge to finding some really good ones.

Jenny said...

I like Beverly Cleary, but I don't recall this one. It looks like a quick fun read that would have me smiling. Thanks for stopping by my blog.

Enbrethiliel said...


Henry Huggins was Cleary's first and freshest novel. While I love the sophistication Cleary later achieved with the Ramona books, I will never forget that I fell in love with the classic Henry stories first.

Thanks for returning the visit, Jenny. =)

vvb32 reads said...

awww, sounds like a sweet read. i've read the ramona books but have not yet ventured into the henry ones. will do, though. will do.

Enbrethiliel said...


It's definitely sweet in places, but best described as warm and filling. =)

If I remember correctly, Henry plays a significant role in Ramona the Pest? And I think Ramona fans will love Henry's books because it's so much fun to watch her steal the show from everyone else, even as a minor character. (Sometimes I think about how easy it would have been for Cleary to have written Beezus without a sister . . . We almost missed Ramona by this much!)

Thanks for the visit. =)

bex said...

Oh, now see I didn't realise it was a weekly event! I will definitely have to check it out. Thanks for making it clear! ;)

Enbrethiliel said...


No worries! I hope to read your first Character Connection soon. ;-)

Lesa said...

I remember the nightcrawlers! Kids earning money alwasys fascinated me. Henry Huggins books were one of my staples from my elem library but I've forgotten so much-- didn't even remember the mom. I think I will try a reread with my little boy after we finish Oz.

Enbrethiliel said...


Lesa, you are so right: the concept of kids earning money--or even just budgeting it--is fascinating. Have you ever read Kid Power by Susan Beth Pfeffer? That was my introduction to what deserves to be its own sub-sub-genre--and it was a great one! =D

Incidentally, both Kid Power and Henry Huggins, along with the first Baby-sitters Club book, were on a themed summer reading list I made up for Star Shaker last March. But she didn't have much enthusiasm when it came to children and money, so I had to ditch the idea for something else. =/

IntrovertedJen said...

I read every Beverly Cleary book in my little library at least once, but I don't remember much about any of them. :( I know I read the Henry books too. A mom who gets out and digs worms with her son is a very special mom indeed.

My first thought for your mother theme is The Other Mother from Coraline by Neil Gaiman. But she's uber-creepy, and I get the feeling those are not the moms you want to feature.

Enbrethiliel said...


I already have all my mothers picked out, but I did also consider The Other Mother for a while. It would have given me an excuse to read the book at last, for one thing! =P But in the end, I went with mothers I had known about for years. =)