If you and yours are new to easy reading, you need to know about Mr. Putter and Tabby. They're the unlikely stars of an excellent series by the prolific author Cynthia Rylant. I say "unlikely" because Mr. Putter is an elderly man and Tabby an elderly cat. But Mr. Putter has the heart and soul of a ten-year-old boy, and Tabby is the loyal friend everyone would want. Arthur Howard's illustrations are priceless, showing the goings-on in bright, cheerful watercolor, gouache, and pencil pictures. Tabby is never far from Mr. Putter; their affection for each other is clear. (Mr. Putter looks enough like Mr. Wilson from the "Dennis the Menace" comics to be his gentler brother.)
In Mr. Putter & Tabby Run the Race, Mr. Putter and his neighbor Mrs. Teaberry enter a senior marathon. Second prize is a train set, and Mr. Putter wants it. He must prepare by working out.
He decided he would touch his toes
thirty times every day to make up for the
thirty years he'd forgotten to run.
The first time Mr. Putter tried to touch his toes,
he could not reach them.
He touched his knees
Unless they're personal trainers, grown-ups reading along will recognize themselves. Considering appeal to younger readers, though, I found the book's focus on the senior marathon and Mr. Putter & Mrs. Teaberry (instead of Tabby) a bit of a stretch, even for this series. It comes up short of the best, like Mr. Putter & Tabby Feed the Fish. Reliving his youth, Mr. Putter buys a couple of goldfish, and Tabby becomes obsessed, to the point of feline looniness, with them. The relationship between the pet and pet owner is front and center as they work out their differences.
That said, a new Mr. Putter & Tabby is always a must-read. My advice? Start with a couple of others in the series—such as the one mentioned above, Mr. Putter & Tabby Pour the Tea (the first), Mr. Putter & Tabby Pick the Pears, and Mr. Putter & Tabby Fly the Plane—and work your way forward. By then, readers won't want to miss seeing what the duo and their friends are up to.
The publisher, Harcourt, states that the Mr. Putter & Tabby series is for 6 to 9 year olds. Preschoolers will like the books as read-alouds, too. Mr. Putter & Tabby Run the Race is a nominee in the Cybils' Easy Reader category.