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Easy Reader Romance Blooms Between Cynthia Rylant's Putter and Teaberry

By Edited Nov 19, 2016 0 0

When one thinks of the great romances of literature, the list of names tends to include the likes of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy, Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester, Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe and so on. Some might turn to the realms of contemporary young adult fiction to produce such names as Bella Swan and Edward Cullen or Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley. But few would think of easy readers as a place to look for such pairings.

Nonetheless, one of my favorite romances is one that blossoms in the pages of the Mr. Putter and Tabby series, written by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Arthur Howard. Rylant never identifies the relationship between elderly Mr. Putter and his cheerful neighbor, Mrs. Teaberry, as anything other than platonic, but whenever I read of their interaction with each other, I confess to getting a little fluttery. Below are the books in the series thus far that explore their powerful bond.

Mr. Putter and Tabby Walk the Dog - We meet Mrs. Teaberry for the first time in this second book in the series, and Mr. Putter's cat learns to tolerate and even enjoy the company of her bulldog Zeke, paving the way for many further adventures amongst the four of them.

Mr. Putter and Tabby Bake the Cake - Mr. Putter decides to bake Mrs. Teaberry a Christmas cake to thank her for being a good neighbor. Though his best intentions go a bit awry, Mrs. Teaberry's appreciation for his considerate gesture is sincere.

Mr. Putter and Tabby Row the Boat - Mr. Putter is having a miserable time of it in the heat of summer, and he suspects his neighbor is as well, so he suggests that they escape their stifling homes with their pets in tow and enjoy a picnic in the park and a boat ride through the pond, complete with some playful splashing.

Mr. Putter and Tabby Toot the Horn - Mrs. Teaberry wants to form a band, and Mr. Putter reluctantly agrees to go along with her whim, though he finds he has no talent for playing the horn, the only instrument that seems to suit him. The compromises they make for each other are incredibly sweet, Howard furnishes one of the coziest portraits of the devoted friends in the series.

Mr. Putter and Tabby Take the Train - Mr. Putter recalls his childhood fascination with locomotives when Mrs. Teaberry suggests that they take a train trip through the countryside. Together, they concoct a devious scheme to smuggle Zeke and Tabby onto the train with them, and this rebellious streak gives their sedate outing flair.

Mr. Putter and Tabby Paint the Porch - Mr. Putter undertakes a project that may be more than he can handle, especially with Tabby underfoot. Mrs. Teaberry kindly offers to help, but thanks to Zeke, painting the porch takes an even more disastrous turn. The ability of these friends to handle these setbacks with good humor is a testament to their easy-going nature.

Mr. Putter and Tabby Stir the Soup - Mr. Putter is in the mood for soup, but his stove is broken, so Mrs. Teaberry invites him over. The only trouble is that Zeke is in the mood to be very distracting, making the culinary task much more difficult...

Mr. Putter and Tabby Feed the Fish - Speaking of distractions, that's what Mr. Putter's new fish are to Tabby, who can't keep her eyes off them. Happily, Zeke isn't nearly so twitchy around fish, so Mr. Putter finds a suitable solution to his troubles when he offers these hypnotic pets to Mrs. Teaberry.

Mr. Putter and Tabby Catch the Cold - It's no fun being sick, but Mrs. Teaberry makes Mr. Putter's unpleasant experience much more bearable by sending Zeke over with buckets full of goodies while he is too sick to leave the house. What a good neighbor!

Mr. Putter and Tabby Run the Race - Mr. Putter agrees to enter a race for senior citizens at the request of Mrs. Teaberry, though his main motivation is the train set that serves as one of the prizes. While his training exercises aren't a rousing success, his determination is admirable, and what happens after the race is yet another example of the kindness these two friends so often extend to each other.

Mr. Putter and Tabby Write the Book - It's hard to stay motivated while writing, as Mr. Putter discovers when he decides to write a book. After finding all sorts of ways to distract himself, he finally decides to try something a little different, and Mrs. Teaberry makes for an enthusiastic audience.

Mr. Putter and Tabby Make a Wish - It's Mr. Putter's birthday, and even though he hasn't had a party in years, he decides that this is an occasion to celebrate. However, Mrs. Teaberry is slow in responding to his invitation. When she finally does show up, Mr. Putter realizes that you're never too old to have a great birthday.

Mr. Putter and Tabby Spin the Yarn - Mr. Putter offers to provide refreshments for the members of Mrs. Teaberry's knitting club. Unfortunately, all that yarn doesn't mix so well with a cat, and Zeke's fascination with the fake fruit on the ladies' hats proves similarly disastrous. One of the funniest installments in the series, it again shows the capacity of these characters to overlook minor catastrophes, knowing that they spring from a spirit of neighborliness.

Mr. Putter and Tabby See the Stars - Mrs. Teaberry's food gives Mr. Putter indigestion, but instead of grumbling about it, he uses his stomach trouble as an excuse to take Tabby for a walk under the stars. A lovely and contemplative installment.

Mr. Putter and Tabby Pick the Pears - Mr. Putter wants to make pear jelly, so he decides to pick some pears, but that proves a tricky task, even after he comes up with what seems like a clever solution to his problem. Mrs. Teaberry's response to his pear-collecting attempts is especially endearing.

Mr. Putter and Tabby Spill the Beans - Mrs. Teaberry, always on the lookout for fun activities, suggests a cooking class. Mr. Putter isn't thrilled, but he doesn't want to disappoint Mrs. Teaberry, so the two of them head off to cooking class - with Tabby and Zeke in tow. Complications ensue, but nothing can stop them from enjoying each other's company as they giggle over the afternoon in a soda shop, giving readers a thoroughly charming image to cherish until the next book comes out.

Rylant tells her stories with short sentences carefully crafted for maximum impact. She divides each book into several brief chapters that are just the right size for those beginning to read. Meanwhile, Howard's illustrations add wonderful doses of humor and allow us to really get to know the protagonists. Though I doubt we will ever see so much as a kiss on the cheek exchanged between Mr. Putter and Mrs. Teaberry, I find the love that they share every bit as romantic as that found in classic novels. I hope that Rylant and Howard will continue to produce their adventures for many years to come.

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