Hidden Gems 6 – Rediscovered Gem
March 05, 2013
At the beginning of the year, a challenge was issued to library staff to read as many pages as possible of children’s and/or young adult books before March 1. The purpose of the challenge is to broaden and reinforce the staffs’ knowledge of books and trends in these categories. For my reading, I chose a couple of newer, award-winning books (The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos) and a couple of older books that I had enjoyed reading as a child. I wrote about the first of these older books, Jexium Island by Madeleine Grattan, in my first Hidden Gems blog on 01/28/2013. The second book, Henry Reed, Inc. by Keith Robertson, is the subject of this week’s blog.
Henry Reed, Inc. was the winner of the William Allen White Children’s Book Award in 1961. It was the first of five Henry Reed books written by Keith Robertson (1914-1991). This particular story is about a young teenager, Henry Reed. Henry’s father works for the government in the State Department, and their family had moved between various consulate posts all over the world. To reacquaint Henry with American life, he is sent to stay for a summer with his aunt and uncle who live in a rural neighborhood near Princeton, New Jersey. Princeton, home of the university of the same name, is well-known as a center for research organizations. The book is written in journal format by Henry; it was written to fulfill a summer homework assignment. He is also challenged by his teacher to report back to the class in the fall about free enterprise. To meet the latter requirement, Henry decides to start a research firm along with Midge Glass, a girl about his age who also lives in the neighborhood. Their wild exploits over the summer make for funny and enjoyable reading.
Notwithstanding the fact this was an award-winning book, one of the reasons I enjoyed reading it back in the 1960s was that my father worked for Midwest Research Institute, a research firm, at the time. This personal connection to Henry’s research business is one of the reasons this book has stuck with me after all these years. I decided to reread it to see how well the story has held up over the years.
I am calling this book a rediscovered gem for a different reason, however. Between 1980 and 1988, I workd as a computer analyst for a large firm located at a research center just outside of Princeton. The descriptions in the book of the Princeton area and of Hopewell, New Jersey (where Keith Robertson, the author, lived prior to his death) were spot on. They brought back many fond memories of my time living there. At one point, the author even mentions the name of a road I used to take daily to get to work. My personal experiences in the area made my rereading of the story all the more enjoyable. Beyond the locale, which makes this a personal, rediscovered gem, I am happy to report that Robertson’s writing has held up very well, even after all these years. I highly recommend the book.