An excerpt from Beverly Cleary's latest book in which a young boy's emotional ups and downs--following his parents' divorce--are tracked through his letters to a favorite author:

January 15 Dear Mr. Henshaw,

I finished Beggar Bears in two nights. It is a really good book. At first I was surprised because it wasn't funny like your other books, but then I got to thinking (you said authors should think) and decided a book doesn't have to be funny to be good, although it often helps. This book did not need to be funny.

In the first chapter I thought it was going to be funny. I guess I expected it because of your other books and because the mother bear was teaching her twin cubs to beg from tourists in Yellowstone Park. Then when the mother died because a stupid tourist fed her a cupcake in a plastic bag and she ate the bag, too, I knew this was going to be a sad book. Winter was coming on, tourists were leaving the park and the little bears didn't know how to find food for themselves.

When they hibernated and then woke up in the middle of winter because they had eaten all the wrong things and hadn't stored up enough fat, I almost cried. I sure was relieved when the nice ranger and his boy found the young bears and fed them and the next summer taught them to hunt for the right things to eat.

I wonder what happens to the fathers of bears. Do they just go away?

Sometimes I lie awake listening to the gas station pinging, and I worry because something might happen to Mom. She is so little compared to most moms, and she works so hard. I don't think Dad is that much interested in me. He didn't phone when he said he would.

I hope your book wins a million awards.

Sincerely, Leigh Botts From "Dear Mr. Henshaw," by Beverly Cleary, Copyright (c) 1983; published by William Morrow and Co.