Sunday, June 1, 2008

Henry Reed, Inc.

When I began this blog, my intention was to review not only new releases, but also some favorites that have been out for years- even out-of-print titles- to bring awareness to the marvelous books that nobody talks about.  However, I've been mostly reviewing more recently released books because there have been so many great ones released.  So, in time for summer, I'm reviewing a great summer read that was released years ago but is still completely wonderful!

Henry Reed, Inc. is the first of a series of books by Keith Robertson about a boy who lives abroad with his diplomat parents and spends his summers with his good-natured aunt and uncle in a small town in New Jersey called Grover's Corner.  Henry's teacher has assigned his class to write reports about their summers and so the book is a first-person record of Henry's experiences in the US.  Part of the assignment was to discuss how American children earn money so the first thing Henry decides to do is start a business.  The business he decides to start is research and development; he teams up with a neighborhood girl, Midge, and the two spend the summer with various schemes to raise money under the broad umbrella of research and development.  Through the course of the summer, they have adventures with everything from truffle hunting to discovering oil in their backyard.  And they even end up making $40 each- which, then, was quite a feat.

The best part of these books (since Henry Reed, Inc. is simply the first of many) is the voice by which they are told.  No matter what crazy predicament they get themselves into, and they get themselves into many, Henry calmly discusses it- seeing everything in the most literal and serious manner (after a summer of  things like causing the power in the entire neighborhood to go out, causing a traffic jam with a riding lawnmower and a bathtub and unleashing a rabbit on an unsuspecting mailman, Henry closes the book by describing his time in New Jersey as "a quiet summer").  Midge contrasts with his practical and matter-of-fact nature by being delightfully over-the-top and wacky.  The reader gets the irony of the narration while thoroughly enjoying the mishaps the two (along with their faithful beagle, Agony) get into.  No matter what book it is or what insane project they are working on (babysitting services, orchestrating a colossal show), nothing feels more like summer than enjoying their hilarious fun!