By Cynthia Rylant
Illustrated by Mark Teague
Blue Sky Press
Cynthia Rylant is a gifted writer and has written books for all ages. In 1993, she won the Newberry Award for her book Missing May. Another of her titles, Van Gogh Café, was one of the first books I reviewed here. Having penned multiple books for beginning readers, she’s no stranger to this age group. Young readers may be familiar with her books about Henry and Mudge or Mr. Putter and Tabby, two of her other beginning readers series.
Rylant’s text in Poppleton is simple and concise and the stories are filled with humor and warmth. There are three short chapters, each containing a separate story. As with Rylant’s other beginning reader series, the Poppleton books focus on the merits and importance of friendship.
Mark Teague is a prolific illustrator with a crisp, cartoonish style. His watercolor and pencil illustrations in Poppleton are lively and colorful. Capturing the comical aspect of the text, Teague portrays that comedy adeptly in the facial expressions and body language of the characters.
Poppleton is a pig: he was a city pig but now he’s a country pig. He used to jog; now he gardens. Instead of taking taxis, he takes naps.
He’s learning to adjust to country life and he’s made some new friends. And though he enjoys the company of his new neighbor, Cherry Sue (a llama), her constant invitations are a bit intrusive. If only he could find a way to say no without hurting her feelings.
When Cherry Sue beckons him again in her signature way, Poppleton can take no more, and he soaks her with the garden hose! He immediately feels remorse and explains to Cherry Sue that, sometimes, he just wants to be left alone. It’s then that Cherry Sue confesses, after all her neighborly invitations, she’d also been feeling obligated to continue the practice. She was trying to find her own way out of the situation! So Poppleton soaks himself with the hose, and the two become best friends.
Poppleton’s favorite day of the week is Monday; Monday is library day and Poppleton takes library day very seriously. To prepare, he packs his bag: eyeglasses for reading, book marker for holding his place, pocket watch for the slow parts, tissues for sad parts, and lip balm for the dry parts.
He heads to the library, picks a table all to himself and buries his nose in an adventure book.
At the end of the day, he thanks the librarian, packs his things and slowly walks home, “all dreamy from so much adventure.” Library day is the best day of all.
Fillmore (a goat) is sick in bed and needs to take a pill. Poppleton is trying to help his friend but Fillmore can only take his pill if it’s hidden in food—sweet and soft food, with raspberry filling, and chocolate on top.
Cherry Sue donates her Heavenly Cake to the cause. Filmore doesn’t want to know which piece of cake contains the hidden pill, but after eating nine pieces he knows it’s in the tenth and will eat no more.
Now he wants something lemony, with coconut; Poppleton starts to feel ill too. It takes three days and twenty-seven cakes before the two friends feel well again.
There are seven books in the Poppleton series and all seven are in my personal library. Each time I revisit them, I am reminded of their virtue and am left with a feeling of happiness and delight.
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