You can tell I’m a mom of four because I jumped in place when I saw the library had a new Mr. Putter And Tabby book. Cynthia Rylant has three series my children have all loved: Mr. Putter & Tabby, Henry & Mudge, and Poppleton. We’ve read every one of them we can get our hands on, and they’re reading staples.
Mr. Putter is an old man, and he owns an old cat named Tabby. The early books in the series chronicle his experiences with Tabby and with his neighbor, Mrs. Teaberry, who despite being Mr. Putter’s contemporary is quite modern and adventuresome. Mr. Putter is conservative and likes things orderly. The charm of the stories arises from the interaction of the characters and how the scrapes they get into are the natural extensions of who they are.
For example, in Mr. Putter and Tabby Bake The Cake, Mr. Putter wants to find a wonderful Christmas present for Mrs. Teaberry,who always finds unique gifts for him. He decides to bake her a cake, but he’s stymied by the fact that he can’t bake. He ends up spending a hundred dollars on cake pans etc, and then has to stay up all night on Christmas Eve attempting to bake cakes (it takes four tries, one of which ends in a flaming cake). Mrs. Teaberry loves the cake, but she has to wait ten hours to eat it because Mr. Putter then falls asleep on her couch.
My father and mother and Patient Husband and I were talking about Our Favorite Cynthia Rylant Books, with all of us laughing out loud at times when we mentioned the different plots and scrapes they get into. We love the characters, particularly the expressiveness of Tabby and the heart of Mr. Putter, and that’s why the unnatural happiness when I saw a new MP&T book at the library.
The previous new book, by the way, had been no good. Mr. Putter and Tabby Spin The Yarn, or something like that. This one was Mr. Putter and Tabby Spill The Beans. And I’m afraid to say the series had officially jumped the shark.
Whereas before the humor arose naturally from the characters’ interactions and their personalities, these last two books have involved the same setup (Mrs. Teaberry proposes an exciting new project) and the same conclusion (Zeke causes a major disaster). None of it arises naturally from their personalities. There’s no heart. There’s no charm.
I’m afraid this series needs to be retired. While I adored the first ten or so books, it’s as if she no longer knows her own characters and is resorting to the easy ending. And when I mentioned this, my father agreed that the later Henry and Mudge books suffer the same way.
It’s sad. But maybe fifteen books is enough for Mr. Putter.
FTC Disclaimer: I received this book for free for two weeks from the Angelborough Public Library and would tell you I don’t recommend it even if the publisher had given it to me as my own copy. But the earlier books in the series are splendid, and I would really encourage everyone to get a look at them, even if you’re childfree, because they make great gifts for kids.