by Cynthia Rylant
2011 | 44 pages | Easy Reader
In this latest installment in Cynthia Rylant’s Mr. Putter and Tabby series, Mr. Putter has become nostalgic for the sights and smells of school. To satisfy his craving, Mrs. Teaberry arranges for the two of them to bring their respective pets (Tabby the cat and Zeke the dog) to a local elementary school classroom for show and tell. There’s just one problem - the teacher wants Tabby and Zeke to perform tricks, and neither animal knows any.
I think what makes this series work so well for kids is that Mr. Putter is child-like without being laughably childish. He is a grown man, but there is an element of whimsy in his personality that I think kids can really recognize and relate to. His and Mrs. Teaberry’s awkwardness and embarrassment in front of the students in the class serve to really humanize adults and show kids that everyone makes mistakes, no matter how much life experience they have.
Another wonderful thing about this volume is the way it evokes Fall and the start of a new school year in so few words. I love the notion of “crispy wind” and the wonderful dessert vocabulary introduced by “rhubarb trifle.” I could envision exactly what Rylant means when she says Tabby was “attacking leaves.” I also thought Zeke’s appetite for stolen desserts was a clever recurring theme, and really enjoyed the way it foreshadowed what he would do to the class’s cupcakes late in the book.
Arthur Howard’s illustrations really perfectly complement Rylant’s text. I’m impressed by how much detail he puts into each character’s clothes, even the minor characters who only appear on a page or two. I felt as though I could hear Mrs. Teaberry’s voice based solely on how Howard draws her face, which is a great testament to how well the styles of this author and illustrator truly do mesh.
I imagine it is difficult to come up with new stories to tell about the same old characters all the time, but Rylant does it very well, and this new addition to the Mr. Putter and Tabby library is as strong as ever.
I borrowed Mr. Putter and Tabby Ring the Bell from my local public library.
NOTE: This book was nominated by Maria Ciccone for the 2011 Cybils Awards in the Easy Reader/Early Chapter Book category. I am a first-round panelist in this category, but this review reflects my opinions only, not those of any other panelist, or the panel as a whole. Thanks!