Study Guide

Dear Mr. Henshaw Perseverance

By Beverly Cleary


The best thing about sixth grade in my new school is that if I hang in, I'll get out. (15.2)

Well, that's not the best reason for doing something, but it is motivating, and sometimes the only reason we go forward when the situation stinks is so it'll be over.

Thanks for the tip. I know you're busy. (20.2)

Leigh certainly isn't shy about pursuing Mr. Henshaw. He's been writing to him for four years and asking him all the questions he doesn't ask anyone else. Here, he seems to know he might be bugging Mr. H.

My teacher says my writing skills are improving. Maybe I really will be a famous author someday. (31.2)

This not only shows Leigh's tenacity in sticking with writing even when he gets frustrated or stuck, but it also shows why he's persevering. Having a goal or motivation is key when things get tough.

I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper. (39.1)

Leigh has kept at his writing, despite grumbling about it in the beginning. He's gotten to the point where it's coming naturally and isn't such a struggle.

"You know," said Mom, "whenever I watch the waves, I always feel that no matter how bad things seem, life will still go on." That was how I felt, too, only I wouldn't have known how to say it. (39.21)

Aren't moms great? They can express things we don't have words for and make us feel all safe and good. Here, Mom's pointing out one of the ways she copes with life when it's difficult. The waves are always there and watching them gives Mom a big-picture perspective that gets her through the day-to-day hassles.

I thought of Dad up in the mountains chaining up eight heavy wheels in the snow, and I thought of Mom squirting deviled crab into hundreds of little cream puff shells and making billions of tiny sandwiches for golfers to gulp and wondering if Catering by Katy would be able to pay her enough to make the rent. (40.12)

Both parents have good work ethics and are role models for Leigh in persevering even when the going gets tough.

The books didn't have directions for an alarm in a lunchbox, but I learned enough about batteries and switches and insulated wires, so I think I can figure it out. (46.4)

Leigh knows nothing about electricity in the beginning, but the desire to keep his lunch safe motivates him to learn how to make an alarm. He's tried several things by this point: writing a fake name on his lunch bag, getting angry, and eating his lunch in the morning. Nothing worked, so he moves on to the next thing.

I never did find out who the thief was, and now that I stop to think about it, I am glad. (51.2)

The pilfered lunch problem bothers Leigh for most of the story, and he tries many different solutions. The important thing is that he keeps at the problem until it's solved. Sometimes, though, the solution isn't what is expected, as Leigh says here; he gives up wanting to know the identity of the thief. His perseverance solves two problems: no more stolen lunches and growing out of a childish wish for revenge.

"How did you find Bandit?" I asked.

"By asking every day over my CB," he said. "I finally got an answer from a trucker who said he picked up a dog in a snowstorm in the Sierra, a dog that was still riding with him. Last week we turned up in the same line at a weigh scale" (60.10-11)

Maybe Dad has grown up a bit after all. He didn't give up looking for Bandit, and his persistence paid off.