O. Henry's Short Stories: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Suzanne Rose

Suzanne has taught all levels PK-graduate school and has a PhD in Instructional Systems Design. She currently teachers literacy courses to preservice and inservice teachers.

American author O. Henry wrote many short stories during his writing career. In this lesson, you'll learn a little bit about O. Henry's life and will read about some of his stories.

William Sydney Porter

You may not know who William Sydney Porter is, but perhaps you recognize the name 'O. Henry.' O. Henry was an American writer of short stories. Because of some time spent in jail, Porter didn't want to use his own name for his stories, so he used a pseudonym, or a 'pen name.' He chose O. Henry.

O. Henry wrote stories set in places where he'd lived and included characters and events from his real life. For example, many of his stories were set in Texas and New York City, places he lived for many years.

One thing that makes O. Henry's stories interesting is that they usually have a twist at the end. A twist in a story is when something you aren't expecting happens.

Let's take a look at a few of O. Henry's most famous stories.

The Gift of the Magi

The Gift of the Magi is one of O. Henry's most beloved stories. Set at Christmastime, it is the story of a newly-married couple who are very poor; they don't have enough money to buy each other Christmas gifts. Della has pretty hair which falls ''rippling and shining like a cascade of brown waters'' down to her knees. James loves it. James owns a beautiful gold pocket watch that had belonged to his father and grandfather. On Christmas Day, both manage to have a gift for the other. In one of O. Henry's best plot twists, Della sells her hair to buy Jim a watch chain, and Jim sells his watch to buy beautiful combs for Della's hair.

The Ransom of Red Chief

In The Ransom of Red Chief, Bill and Sam are two bumbling crooks who need money. To get it, they decide to kidnap the only son of Ebenezer Dorset, the richest man in town. What they don't realize is that Johnny, the little boy, is very naughty and gets into lots of trouble.

Red Chief

Bill and Sam end up with many bruises and injuries. When they try to get Mr. Dorset to pay for Johnny's return, Mr. Dorset sends a note telling them that if they want to get Johnny off their hands, they will have to pay HIM to take Johnny back! Bill and Sam are so fed up with Johnny's tricks that they pay his father to take him!

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