Cleary's first novel introduces her most popular boy protagonist and his mischievous pet dog, Ribsy. Immediately after adopting the lovable mutt, Henry experiences a variety of adventures: bedlam on a bus ride; mass guppy breeding and the consequences thereof; nocturnal worm collecting as a means to replace a friend's lost football; the messy resolution of an unwanted role in a school operetta; disastrous participation in a local dog show. In the book's final chapter, Ribsy's former owner comes calling for him, and what ensues is enough to make even the youngest readers cheer for Henry.
Even after six decades, the ingenuity of Cleary's scenarios and the enthusiasm of her characters still impart an enduring freshness to the proceedings in spite of the novel's dated attributes and vernacular. Louis Darling's illustrations are notably cruder than those of subsequent Cleary books, but they're no less charming or evocative of their innocent age for being so much less detailed.