Happy Birthday, Cynthia Rylant!

June 6, 2012 children's books 0

Cynthia Rylant is celebrating her 58th birthday today (June 6, 2012).  Born in 1954, Rylant grew up in West Virginia, and discovered a love of writing in college. Her books range from picture books and early chapter books for younger readers (ages 3 to 8) to books for the middle grades (grades 5 to 8, or age 10 to 13).  She has won numerous book awards, including the Newbery Medal for Missing May,  a book about love and grief.  Her first book, the Caldecott award-winning When I Was Young in the Mountains, drew on her own experiences growing up in her grandparents’ home, and a number of her other books are also set in Appalachia.

Ryland is very popular among the younger crowd, particularly for her series about Poppleton, an adventurous pig; the elderly Mr. Putter and his equally elderly cat, Tabby; and most of all Henry and his huge dog, Mudge.  Mr. Putter and Tabby and Henry and Mudge were both well-loved in our household when our daughter was young, and I freely confess that I still love them.  I’m most attached to Mr. Putter and Tabby.

In the first book, Mr. Putter and Tabby Pour the Tea, lonely Mr. Putter decides he wants a cat.  He goes to the pet store, but all they have are kittens.

“Oh, no one wants cats, sir,” said the pet store lady.
“They are not cute. They are not peppy.”
Mr. Putter himself had not been cute and peppy for a very long time.
He said, “I want a cat.”

So Mr. Putter goes to the animal shelter in search of a cat.

The shelter man brought Mr. Putter
the old yellow cat.
Its bones creaked, its fur was thinning,
and it seemed a little deaf.
Mr. Putter creaked, his hair was thinning,
and he was a little deaf, too.

It’s the start of a perfect relationship. The series has stretched to 20 books now.  My favorite volume, hands down, is Mr. Putter and Tabby Paint the Porch… hindered by the antics of a local squirrel.  I challenge you to read it aloud without laughing!  As with all the Mr. Putter and Tabby books, the illustrations (by Arthur Howard) are perfectly married to the text.

You can’t go wrong with any of Rylant’s books; she is a wonderful writer, funny and moving by turns.  I highly recommend her.

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Sources: 
Kennedy, Elizabeth, “Spotlight on Award-winning Author Cynthia Rylant”, About.com (Children’s Books pages)
Scholastic.com, Teacher information pages, “Cynthia Rylant”
Wikipedia, “Cynthia Rylant”

Author photo from Simon & Schuster’s author page for Cynthia Rylant

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