Tuesday, September 13, 2016

'Snow Go! Mr. Putter and Tabby Hit the Slope by Cynthia Rylant

Mr. Putter and his fine cat, Tabby liked winter.

But sometimes things were a little slow.

It's the dead of winter, and even the snow is falling s-l-o-w-l-y.

Mr. Putter and Tabby stare sleepily out the window at their beloved hammock, now swamped in three feet of snow.

"We need some fun," said Mr. Putter to Tabby.

Mr. Putter daydreams about the fun he had when he was a kid, rocketing down the slopes on his little red sled. If only he still had that sled....

He calls his next-door neighbor Mrs. Teaberry. Mrs. Teaberry has two of almost everything in her garage. And, yes, she has two sleds! Mrs. Teaberry loves adventure, and she's on it instantly.

The sled runners are soaped and Mrs. Teaberry and her good dog Zeke are soon decked out in Alpine gear. Mr. Putter pulls on his plaid parka, his boots and earmuffs, and the red scarf Mrs. Teaberry knitted for him. Tabby is wearing another piece of their neighbor's handiwork.

Tabby was wearing a sweater Mrs. Teaberry had knitted her.

It was a little itchy, which made Tabby's tail very twitchy.

Tabby is warm, but her tail is still doing some serious twitching when the two intrepid sledders and their pets arrive at the top of the sledding hill. Mr. Putter wants Tabby to sit in front of him on the sled, but Tabby is not at all on board with that idea. She digs her front claws into Mr. Putter's thick coat sleeves and scrabbles stiffly with her hind legs. Her tail is twitching and switching. It's a no go in the snow for Tabby!

As Tabby sees it, things are going downhill fast with this outing.

And as soon as Mr. Putter finally gets Tabby on the sled, good dog Zeke jumps on and down the snowy slope the two go. Zeke is in his element, but Tabby is digging her claws into the sled for all she's worth.

The next thing Mr. Putter knew, he had no sled, no cat, and no fun.

Fun was already halfway down the slope.

As usual, Mrs. Teaberry takes charge fast. With a joyful Cowabunga! she pulls Mr. Putter onto the second sled and steers downhill, passing their pets--Zeke happily waggy and Tabby anxiously twitchy--way down the slope. And when they get to the bottom, Tabby, tail still twitching, takes to the top of the nearest tree. Will Mr. Putter ever get Tabby to come down?

Of course he will, in Cynthia Rylant's twenty-fifth book in this best-selling series, Mr. Putter & Tabby Hit the Slope, (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016). Tabby licks her ruffled fur and laps up some warm cream, apres' sled, and life is soon happily back in the slow lane at the Putter house.

Author Rylant's style is simple yet vibrant, with whole paragraphs of meaning expressed in a few choice words, her skillful storytelling building suspense with every itch and twitch, all of which will have kids grinning at the thoughts of taking a terrified cat downhill on a sled.

Beginning readers will also warm to Rylant's happy ending, with Tabby smoothing her rumpled fur and feelings, lovingly soothed with muffins and cream and a nap in Mr. Putter's lap. As in all the books in this absolutely charming series, the comic and cozy artwork of Arthur Howard is essential, telling everything readers need to know in the gung-ho eyes of good dog Zeke and the round, horrified eyes of Tabby as they zoom down the hill, mirror images of the body language of their respective owners. Fun may be halfway down the hill for Mr. Putter, but it's everywhere in this sweet and jolly story, like all the others a celebration of the little joys of life and friendship and a mini-chapter fun ride for beginning readers as well.

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