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Mr Putter & Tabby: 25 sweet stories

by Cynthia Rylant
illustrated by Arthur Howard
44 pages / 1994-2016

It’s always fun to find a children’s book that is interesting enough for parents to read repeatedly without getting too bored. And it is an absolute treasure when you can find an entire series of such books! Cynthia Rylant’s Mr. Putter and Tabby books – 25 in all – are exactly that sort.

Mr. Putter is an older retired man with an older, quite sedentary cat named Tabby. And next door, they have a wonderful neighbor, Mrs. Teaberry, who has a “good” dog named Zeke. They go on the sort of adventures that older people do – a boat ride, a cooking class, painting the porch – and their two pets help liven things up. These are quiet, sweet stories that will have you and your child smiling throughout.

My wife and I enjoyed reading them to our then three-year-old, who was only disappointed with one story, but that was because I told her it was the one “where Mr. Putter and Mrs. Teaberry finally get married.” She was very sad to discover I was just joking – this perfect couple hasn’t yet become an official couple. We are still hoping, though!

I would recommend these for the 3-9 year-old age group. They are great books for parents to read to both pre-school and even elementary-age children because parents and children will enjoy them. And they are very fun books for children who are just learning to read to tackle by themselves.

I’ve included short reviews of all 25 titles. There’s no real order to them, except maybe the first two. Those would be best to read in order at the start. I would highly recommend the whole series, with just one caution. Mr. Putter and Tabby Take the Train has this elderly couple flouting a “no pets” rule – not the best example in a book for young children – but that is the exception to a series that’s full of charm and warmth.

1. Mr. Putter and Tabby Pour the Tea
Mr. Putter has some wonderful English muffins he would love to share, but no one to share them with. And when he goes to the pet store looking for a cat, all he finds are kittens, far too full of energy. But when he visits the animal shelter, Mr. Putter finds a cat who’s certainly not overly energetic. Tabby’s joints creak, her fur is thinning, and she seems a bit deaf in one ear… just like Mr. Putter! It’s a wonderful match!

2. Mr. Putter and Tabby Walk the Dog
This marks the first appearance of Mr. Putter’s wonderful neighbor Mrs. Teaberry. When she slips on a kiwi (the fruit, not the bird) and twists her ankle, soft-hearted Mr. Putter quickly volunteers to walk Mrs. Teaberry’s dog, Zeke. But Zeke is no model dog – for Mr. Putter he is a nightmare! At least until Mr. Putter and Zeke have a man-to-dog talk!

3. Mr. Putter and Tabby Bake the Cake
Mrs. Teaberry inexplicably loves fruitcake. Or, at least, Mr. Putter finds it inexplicable. For Christmas, Mr. Putter decides he wants to make her a cake that won’t hurt her foot if she drops it. But he has never made a cake before! Another sweet story about this wonderful elderly couple.

4. Mr. Putter and Tabby Pick the Pears
Mr. Putter loves Fall because that’s when he can pick the juicy pears from his tree and make pear jelly. But this year Mr. Putter’s cranky legs aren’t cooperating – he can’t make it up his ladder to pick them. But that isn’t enough to stop this inventive senior. Mr. Putter remembers how, as a kid, he used a slingshot to knock things down. He fashions his sling, takes careful aim at his pear tree, and gives it a go. It turns out, however, that his slingshot is much more powerful than he thought, and Mr. Putter spends the next several hours launching apples high, high, high into the air, until they disappear over his house. Great fun… though it does nothing to get his pears down. And it leaves him without any apples too! Fortunately, Mrs. Teaberry comes to the rescue.

5. Mr. Putter and Tabby Row the Boat
On this very hot summer day, Mr. Putter figures out a great way to stay cool. He takes Tabby, and his neighbor Mrs. Teaberry, and her good dog Zeke, out on the lake. And on an island in the middle, they eat their lunch and he and Mrs. Teaberry share “tall tales” from their lives. This is the first book that had me hoping the author would soon write “Mr. Putter & Tabby Pop the Question.”

6. Mr. Putter and Tabby Fly the Plane 
Mr. Putter may be old, but he still loves toys (even though he knows he isn’t supposed to anymore). In this adventure, Mr. Putter and Tabby enjoy flying a radio-controlled toy plane… and give it to someone who enjoys it even more.

7. Mr. Putter and Tabby Take the Train
What could be better than going on a train ride? The only problem, it turns out, is that trains don’t allow pets. But this rule is bypassed when Mr. Putter backs Zeke into a backpack, and Mrs. Teaberry carries Tabby on the train in a picnic basket.

One caution: This focuses on how to cleverly get around rules. So, if I was getting a dozen of this series for my school library, I’d give this one a miss. But I might still take it out of my public library and then, while reading it to my girls, teach them that even such wonderful old folks can misstep now and again.

8. Mr. Putter and Tabby Toot the Horn
Mrs. Teaberry decides that since she and Mr. Putter like music so much, they should be in a band. But what sort of band can they be in, since neither knows how to play an instrument?

9. Mr. Putter and Tabby Paint the Porch
Mr. Putter’s porch is looking a little shabby. But when he gets out the pink paint, a squirrel decides he might want to help. Soon little pink paw prints are everywhere! Fortunately, Mr. Putter has a wonderful neighbor, Mrs. Teaberry, who is happy to help him clean up the mess.

10. Mr. Putter and Tabby Feed the Fish
Mr. Putter and Tabby both love visiting the fish store. But when Mr. Putter brings three goldfish home, Tabby starts having troubles – he can’t stop watching them! However Mrs. Teaberry is once again able to help. How nice it is for Mr. Putter and Tabby to have such a wonderful neighbor!

11. Mr. Putter and Tabby Catch the Cold
“When Mr. Putter was a boy, he had almost liked colds. He always got spoiled.” But now that he’s old, it’s not good to have a cold – there’s no one to spoil him! Or is there? Mrs. Teaberry and her good dog Zeke make sure that this is “the best cold Mr. Putter ever caught.”

12. Mr. Putter and Tabby Stir the Soup
Mr. Putter and Tabby both love soup, but there always seems to be something stopping them from making it: either they don’t have the onions, or the beans, or the macaroni. And then, when they finally have all the ingredients, their trusty stove decides not to work. But no worries – Mrs. Teaberry would be happy to let them use her stove. And, of course, Zeke won’t be a bother, right?

One caution offered: Mr. Putter says “Jiminy!” at one point, which some regard as a mild expletive.

13. Mr. Putter and Tabby Write the Book
When a snowstorm keeps him indoors, Mr. Putter decides to become a mystery writer. He soon discovers there is a lot of preparation involved in getting ready to write – snacks don’t just fix themselves! When Mr. Putter’s writing strays from mysteries and towards the many good things he sees all around him, Mr. Putter is a bit discouraged… until Mrs. Teaberry cheers him up!

14. Mr. Putter and Tabby Make a Wish
With a shock, Mr. Putter realizes that today is his birthday, and while he thinks he’s too old for cake, candles, and presents, he still wants a celebration. So he calls up Mrs. Teaberry. She is happy to come over… but she first needs to do some chores. While Mr. Putter waits, increasingly impatient, Mrs. Teaberry is preparing a surprise!

One caution offered: Mr. Putter says, “Good heavens!”

15. Mr. Putter and Tabby Spin the Yarn
Mrs. Teaberry is a very good neighbor and also a cook and a baker who loves to share her culinary creations with Mr. Putter. But Mr. Putter has started to wonder if he’s a good neighbor – what does he do for her? So he decides to do something nice by serving tea to Mrs. Teaberry’s knitting club. But being a good neighbor turns out to be quite a bit harder than Mr. Putter thought!

16. Mr. Putter and Tabby See the Stars
Mrs. Teaberry likes to feed Mr. Putter. And Mr. Putter likes to be fed by Mrs. Teaberry. But one night he so enjoys himself that he doesn’t notice just how many of her jelly rolls he has eaten. Later that night he does notice – his grumbling tummy won’t let him sleep. So he and Tabby go for a walk in their neighborhood. And who do they meet? Mrs. Teaberry! It seems her good dog Zeke also had too many jelly rolls, and his tummy wouldn’t let him sleep either. Mr. Putter and Mrs. Teaberry tell each other “stories in the moonlight. They told secrets. They make each other laugh.” This is another sweet, simple story that will have you rooting for Mr. Putter to get down on one arthritic knee.

17. Mr. Putter and Tabby Run the Race
With Mrs. Teaberry’s encouragement, Mr. Putter enters a seniors’ race. And, with the help of Mrs. Teaberry’s good dog Zeke, Mr. Putter runs quite a race!

18. Mr. Putter and Tabby Spill the Beans
Mrs. Teaberry is very good at coming up with new things for her and Mr. Putter to do. Of course, sometimes these new things don’t work out. But they are always an adventure. This time around Mrs. Teaberry wants the two of them to take a cooking class: one hundred ways to cook beans! To Mr. Putter this doesn’t sound like it will be much of an adventure. “But he wanted to make Mrs. Teaberry happy.” Fortunately, Tabby and Zeke are able to turn this into an adventure after all.

19. Mr. Putter and Tabby Clear the Decks
Mr. Putter thinks that Mrs. Teaberry is a genius when she decides they should have an adventure on a sightseeing boat. But as much as Mr. Putter likes the boat, Zeke likes it even more. When he decides he doesn’t want to leave, it is up to the boat’s captain to talk Mrs. Teaberry’s good dog into letting go of the mast.

20. Mr. Putter and Tabby Ring the Bell
Mr. Putter gets all nostalgic about school and arranges to visit a first-grade classroom. And Tabby and Zeke arrange to make this a very memorable visit!

21. Mr. Putter and Tabby Dance the Dance
Mr. Putter may have two left feet, but Mrs. Teaberry thinks he is a wonder! I wonder when he is going to ask her to marry him!

22. Mr. Putter and Tabby Drop the Ball
Mr. Putter decides that, as fun as napping is, they really need to take up a sport. He finds his old baseball glove and calls up Mrs. Teaberry, who knows just the right team to join, where one of the players is 100 years old! No one is very fast… except Zeke. Oh, Zeke, put down the ball!

23. Mr. Putter and Tabby Turn the Page
Mr. Putter loves to read out loud, and Tabby loves to listen. When the library invites patrons to come “Read aloud to your pet at Story Time” Mr. Putter decides to go. But he makes a mistake. He tells Mrs. Teaberry. She loves new things, so she wants to do it too. But Zeke in a library?

24. Mr. Putter and Tabby Smell the Roses
Mrs. Teaberry’s birthday is just around the corner: what can Mr. Putter and Tabby get her? She likes her garden, so Mr. Putter decides to take her to the Conservatory. But can Zeke behave himself in the midst of so many flowers and plants? Well, no, and suddenly the bananas and lemons are flying everywhere. But even after the rambunctious mutt gets them all booted out, that doesn’t put a damper on the celebrations. Mrs. Teaberry even manages to make lemonade out of the lemons.

25. Mr. Putter and Tabby Hit the Slopes
While this isn’t the happy conclusion to the series that we were hoping for – Mr. Tabby and Mrs. Teaberry are still only neighbors – it is another fun episode. This time Mr. Putter is a bit tired of winter and needs a little excitement. He remembers the sledding he used to do as a boy, and just knows his adventurous neighbor is bound to have some toboggans!

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Articles, Book Reviews, Children’s picture books

46 children's books to foster the love of reading and learning

We are "People of the Book" so reading should be, and is very important, to us. The goal of all reading is to become readers of the Good Book. It is not enough to teach our children the ability to read; we must also nurture our children to be aware that the content of books should lead us to the author of the Good Book. The following is a treasure trove of books that tries to help with attaining that goal. To make a list of favorite books is a daunting task. No sooner is the list completed and another treasure is found and could be added to the repertoire of great books. I hope you get reacquainted with some of your favorites and that your own list of great books will grow. Almost all of these selections are picture books that preschoolers and children in the early grades will enjoy, but there are several "chapter books" which are intended for children who are in at least Grade One or Two (these exceptions are noted in the reviews that follow). Happy reading with your children! OLDIE GOLDIES Some books are timeless gems. Even though they have been written many years ago, these classics have stood the test of time and continue to appeal to children today. On occasion these classics have been updated - “Disneyfied” - and have lost a lot of their substance, so make sure your read the original version. Make way for the duckling by Robert McCloskey Mr. and Mrs. Mallard are looking for just the right place to raise their brood of duckling in New York City. Caps for sale by Esphyr Slobodkina Some monkeys take on the saying of “Monkey see, monkey do” and get into monkey business with a hat peddler. Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel Help is slow to come for a Chinese boy with a long name who falls into a well. Frog and Toad are friends by Arnold Lobel Get every Frog and Toad book in this series and you will not be disappointed. The story of Ping by Marjorie Flack First published back in 1933, this is the story of a funny duck and his misadventures living on the Yangze River. The world of Pooh by A.A. Milne Watch out for the many Disneyfied versions of this story, as only the classic original retains the author's lyrical charm. This is a chapter book, so it might seem to be something intended for grade school children, but even young children are likely to enjoy it. Joseph had a little overcoat by Simms Taback Joseph’s worn coat becomes smaller pieces of clothing until he makes it into a button that he then loses, but that is not the end for, “You can always make something out of nothing.” Stone soup by Marcia Brown When hungry soldiers come to a town of greedy inhabitants, they set out to make a soup of water and stones and the whole town enjoys the feast. The tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter Mrs. Rabbit tells her bunnies not to go into Mr. McGregor’s garden, but Peter does not listen and gets into all kinds of mischief. BOOKS TO TICKLE THE FUNNY BONE We have all hear it at one time or another: “I don’t like to read.” One way to hook your reluctant reader is to start with humorous books. No one can walk away from a book that makes them laugh and humorous books will then help build bridges to other types of books. A book that tickles the funny bone will help the child who doesn’t like to read become one who loves to read. More parts by Tedd Arnold A hilarious book where a boy fears that the idioms he hears all around him (like "give me a hand") are to be understood literally. Cloudy with a chance of meatballs by Judi Barrett Imagine a town where meals rain from the sky! Disaster strikes when the town is bombarded with massive-sized portions of food. Knuffle bunny: a cautionary tale by Mo Willems A small girl, not yet able to talk, tries to get her father to understand that her beloved bunny has been left behind at the laundromat. The principal’s new clothes by Stephanie Calmenson This is a respectable twist on the Han Christian Andersen fairytale The Emperor’s New Clothes. Hairy Maclary from Donalson’s dairy by Lynley Dodd A rhyming story about a cheeky little dog and his pals who gets into mischief. A FESTIVAL OF THE ARTS Can your child recognize the names: Beethoven, Bach or Brahms? How about Monet or Michelangelo? Even if you are not the artsy type once you read these tales you will have to admit these artists lead colorful lives that make great stories to read. Hallelujah Handel by Douglas Cowling Handel, living in the Charles Dickens era, uses his music to help some of the destitute homeless boys of England. This is 48-page book, so most suitable for children in at least Grade One or Two. Camille and the sunflowers by Laurence Anholt Based on a true story of a boy and the famous painter Vincent van Gogh. Berlioz the bear by Jan Brett A story based on the composer Berlioz and his strange sounding double bass. Linnea in Monet’s garden by Christina Bjork A young girl visits Monet’s garden in Paris. This book contains many pictures of Monet’s paintings, and also quite a bit of text, so it is best read to slightly older children. Katie meets the Impressionists by James Mayhew Katie visits the museum and becomes part of the famous painting of the Impressionists. The Farewell Symphony by Anna Harwell Celenza Here is the story behind Joseph Hayden’s famous Farwell Symphony. This picture book has quite a bit more text than average so it is best suited to grade school children. SNOOZERS It is good to set aside at least one traditional time each day for reading. The best time to read to wiggly children is at night when they are tired and ready to go to bed. The snoozer books in this list deal with the ritual of going to bed and hopefully will help your active child relax and soon drift off to sleep. The napping house by Audrey Wood Grandma takes a nap and her grandchild climb on top of her, and then one thing leads to another, and disaster leads to delight. Goodnight moon by Margret Wise Brown A little rabbit is tucked in bed but he must say goodnight to everything in the room as it grows darker and darker. Llama, llama, red pajama by Anna Dewdney Baby Llama has a hard time sleeping and needs his mama’s assurance that, “She’s always near even if she’s not right there.” The prince won’t go to bed by Dayle Anne Dodds A little prince in a medieval world will not go to bed and nothing will help… except a goodnight kiss. Russell the sheep by Rob Scotton Even sheep count sheep when they can’t sleep. Goodnight, goodnight construction site by Sherri Duskey Even the equipment at the construction site needs to lie down and rest after another day of rough and tough work. Ira sleeps over by Bernard Waber A little boy must decide if he wants to take his teddy bear to a sleepover at his friend’s house. GIRLS WITH SPUNK I like girls with attitude - the right kind of attitude that is. I'm not talking about the kind of attitude that is obsessed with ones' self and with what's popular in the world. No, I mean the sort of attitude that is determined to learn what it means to be an image bearer of God. Here are some of those sort of girls. Fancy Nancy by Jan O’Connor Nancy is a girl who loves everything fancy; even the words that she uses are fancy. The courage of Sarah Nobel by Alice Dagliesh A young girl journeys into the wilderness, in this chapter book, and there overcomes her fears of wolves and savage Indians. Hannah by Gloria Whelan This 64-page chapter book is set in the pioneering days. When the new teacher persuades a family to allow their “poor, blind Hannah” to attend school, the young girl learns how to read and write. The story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles This is the true story of an American six-year-old girl who was the first black to attend an all-white school; it is a story of courage and faith. Ramona by Beverley Cleary There’s never been anyone quite like Ramona, a girl with boundless energy and mischievous antics. My Great-Aunt Arizona by Gloria Houston Arizona was a girl who loved to sing, dance, read and dream of visiting faraway places, though she never did travel. Instead she became a teacher who influenced many children. The gardener by Sarah Stewart Set in the Depression era, a young girl is sent to live with her crotchety uncle because her family is struggling financially, and she tries to brighten the world around her. BOYS WILL BE BOYS Readers often make connections to what they are reading. Children will identify with and want to be one of the characters in a story, which thus becomes a role model for the reader. Therefore, what your child is reading is also developing who they are becoming as an adult. A good book should have characters that we wish our children to emulate. Here are some such characters. First flight by George Shea Young Tom Tate has volunteered to try out the Wright brothers’ first flying machine. Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown Stanley becomes flattened when a bulletin board falls on him and he discovers that there are some things only a flat person can do. The Kingfisher book of great boy stories This 160-page anthology includes passages from such stories as Winnie-the-Pooh, Flat Stanley, The Jungle Book and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. This is a great way to get a “taste” of children’s classic literature. Zella Zack and Zodiac by Bill Peet A zebra and ostrich help each other survive in this zany tale. ELDERLY HERO AND HEROINES As a doting grandparent I have learned there is a unique bond between the young and the elderly - both understand that the other needs special care and attention, and both are happy to reciprocate. The following books beautifully portray this loving relationship. So grandparents, find a great book, cuddle up with a child, and read. You’ll be surprised what you have in common. When lightning comes in a jar by Patricia Pollacco Grandma’s ritual of catching lightening bugs in a jar will be remembered for generations to come. Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox Young Wilfrid loves his friend from the nursing home because she has a long name like him, and he wants to help her find her lost memory. Grandfather and I by Helen Buckely Family life can be very busy. But Grandfather always has time to walk with his grandson and look around “just as long as they like.” The old woman who named things by Cynthia Rylant An old woman who has outlived all her friends is reluctant to become too attached to anything she might outlive. So when a stray dog starts visiting she certainly won't give it a name - she doesn't want to become attached! However, when it goes missing she has a change of heart... Grandpa’s teeth by Rod Clement It’s a disthasther when grandpa’s false teeth go missing. Mr. Putter and Tabby catch the cold by Cynthia Rylant I smile and chuckle every time I read a Mr. Putter and Tabby book. The Wednesday surprise by Eve Bunting A granddaughter teaches her grandmother to read. Now one foot, now the other by Tomi DePaola Grandpa teaches Bobby to walk when he is young, and later in life when grandpa has a stroke Bobby helps his grandfather....