The fifth and final book in the delightful Henry Reed series was published in 1986, sixteen years after book four in 1970. After such a long gap, I might have expected the writing to be different, but in fact it’s just the same, funny and entertaining adventures of Henry and his business partner and friend Midge Glass in the small, rural New Jersey town of Grover’s Corner near Princeton. What is missing is the wonderful illustrations of Robert McCloskey, who was such an important addition to the previous books. McCloskey was in his early seventies when this was being done, and probably retired from illustration work. In fact, the previous Henry Reed book may have been his final job. Gail Owens did her best, I’m sure, on the cover of this one, but it’s nowhere close to what McCloskey brought to the characters, and in a style so different it seems completely wrong to me. There are no interior illustrations.
The story actually picks up right after book four, Henry Reed’s Big Show, on August 18 of the same summer as that event. The one thing that seems a bit odd when reading the two books close together is that Midge’s horse Galileo, who was a major part of the previous book and living in the barn, is not mentioned at all in this one.
Henry has decided to start a think tank in his barn, something popular in the Princeton area, and a possible way to make some money that doesn’t involve anything other than brain power. Their first clients, as you might expect, are other children in the area. Deirdre asks them to help her get a raise in her allowance. Henry puts together a survey with questions about allowances, and he and Midge collect data from everyone they can. Henry then prepares a report for Deirdre to give her father, who is so impressed he more than doubles her allowance. Henry and Midge’s think tank has their first success!
Some other projects don’t go as smoothly, as you might imagine, and there are plenty of roadblocks for the enterprising pair to overcome, and many funny situations they find themselves in. Author Keith Robertson has no trouble returning to his most popular characters in this last book, and it’s just as good as the rest. Recommended.
Here’s the entire series on Amazon, or look for them wherever you buy used books. Great summer reading.