The entire Henry Reed series has long been a favorite of mine. The author, Keith Robertson, was never very visible, and I’m not nearly as fond of any of his other books, as he tended to have pretty bland prose. In the Henry Reed books, however, he has figured out a narrative voice that successfully masks his limitations: Henry is a forthright young boy with the defining character trait of lacking a sense of humor. As a result, his journals contain more plot than descriptive prose, and none of the description is inspired. But rather than drag the book down, this voice rings true to the character and more importantly, highlights the plot.
Henry is an enterprising lad who – through no fault of his own – is constantly accosted by all types of zany hijinks, and, dare I say, wacky shenanigans. The adventures are episodic, though certain facts are often introduced in order to return at a later date, and are spurred by an idea such as using a dog rather than a pig to hunt for truffles, or trying out dousing rods. Inevitably, a plot twist keeps the adventure fresh and fun. The cast contains plenty of one-note characters: Henry’s tomboy friend Midge is spunky, Aunt Mabel is loving, and Uncle Al is both wry and (accurately) pessimistic.
Henry’s age reversion back to 13 in the final book, despite the fact that it’s set after the others, gives the character’s world a James Bond-like sense of timelessness. The Henry Reed series isn’t about great literature; it’s about the sense of wonder and curiosity any exploring kid knows, mashed with the entertaining educational tidbits that same kid wants to know.
Originally posted as a review on Goodreads.