Review: Mr. Putter and Tabby Ring the Bell by Cynthia Rylant

ring the bell

Mr. Putter and Tabby Ring the Bell by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Arthur Howard

When autumn arrives with apples, falling leaves and cool wind, Mr. Putter finds that he is missing school.  He wishes that he could return if only for one day.  Then he comes up with a solution:  visit a classroom along with Mrs. Teaberry and have Tabby and Zeke do tricks!  The only problem is that Tabby and Zeke really don’t do tricks.  But Mr. Putter is sure that they can be taught in time.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t all work out as Mr. Putter thinks it will.  It’s a complete disaster: but also completely funny. 

I have been a fan of Mr. Putter and Tabby for years.  They are at that reading level that is so hard, where the children are reaching towards chapter books but not quite there yet.  Rylant has taken a very unlikely character in Mr. Putter and turned him into a man that children will happily relate to.  Tabby on the other hand is easily beloved by young readers.

Howard’s illustrations are equally appealing, filled with plenty of color, lots of action, and more than a touch of silliness.  Readers from a broad range of ages will enjoy this new edition to the popular series. 

A great pick for when children are back at school, this book reads aloud well but works best when young readers tackle it themselves.  Look for the whole series and enjoy them all!  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Lark by Tracey Porter


Lark by Tracey Porter

Sixteen-year-old Lark is kidnapped, raped and left to die in a snowy woods.  The story is told in alternating chapters by Lark and two of her friends.  There is Eve, a girl who used to be Lark’s best friend until one argument destroyed their friendship.  Finally, there is Nyetta, who struggles with being able to see and hear the ghost of Lark.  She is tasked by Lark to save her from being bound into a tree.  Nyetta is put into therapy because of this.  While the book is certainly centered around the tragedy of Lark’s murder, it is also about the two living girls and their need to be believed, cherished and understood. 

Porter’s writing is art.  She has created a book that has only 192 pages, but is a book that also requires careful reading and has depth and darkness as well.  Her writing verges on verse at times, thanks to it being spare but also filled with images.  She plays with magical realism here, speaking definitely to the real-life issues but imbuing them also with a certain symbolism that reaches beyond the actual.  This lends a real depth to the story, creating a book that is worthy of discussion and thought.

The three lead characters are differentiated well, each a solid character with her own personality and problems.  One issue that is woven into the story is sexuality and molestation with two of the girls having experienced molestation or rape.  The book teases readers with reading too much into what the girls were wearing or what they looked like, but then firmly says that that is not why girls are molested or raped.  It is well written, clear and reassuring. 

This is a short book that is a deep read.   The darkness will appeal to some teen readers and the magical realism to others.  Appropriate for ages 15-17.

Reviewed from library copy.