Posts tagged Cynthia Rylant

Delight in the world of Poppleton.



Early Reader

Ages 4-7

By Cynthia Rylant

Illustrated by Mark Teague

56 pages

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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The Van Gogh Cafe: A captivating read for all ages.

The Van Gogh Cafe


Middle Reader

Ages 4 and up (Explained below)

By Cynthia Rylant

Not Illustrated

64 pages

Harcourt Brace



This is one of those rare books that is truly appropriate for almost all ages. Though there are no illustrations, it can still capture the attention of your little ones. If your child can sit for 30 minutes to be read to, you could easily get through the whole book.  A child who can read on his or her own will breeze through it. And I imagine read it again and again, as I have. I re-read it to write this review. Not because I needed to be reminded how wonderful it is but because I have tea steeping and time to kill and I can’t not read this book if it’s in my hands.

For the record, the only connection to Van Gogh is the name. The artist makes no appearances in this book.

The opening paragraph starts:

“The Van Gogh Café sits on Main Street in Flowers, Kansas, and the building it is in was once a theater, which may be the reason for its magic. And it’s true, the café is magical. All kinds of interesting things happen here.”

For instance, the theater is struck by lightning one day and the food starts cooking itself. And it does so perfectly. Marc, the owner, doesn’t immediately notice because he has been spending every moment of his day writing poems; poems which, it’s soon realized, are accurately predicting the future. There’s a visiting possum that inspires a sad, recently widowed man to open an animal shelter. When a bus full of children caught in a surprise snow storm are brought to the café, Marc’s daughter, Clara, feeds them muffins given to the café by a glamorous woman on her way to New York City. The woman only gave Marc and Clara two muffins, but, tucked away in the refrigerator, they’ve multiplied to fourteen! The exact number of children on the bus.

Each chapter perfectly melts into the next and each introduces a new piece of magic.

There’s two points to be aware of in this book. In one chapter an old man dies in the Café while sitting by the window. It’s a very sweet and lovely story and not upsetting or jarring but it may lead to a discussion about death with your little listener. In the following chapter, intruders try to capture a seagull living on the roof, which they believe to be an angel. The idea of intruders could be scary to younger children. However, since these 2 chapters are back to back, you could easily skip them without your listener ever knowing.

Having said that, let me now say this: I have always believed that opening a difficult discussion with your child is much easier to deal with when you’re discussing a fictional character than it is when these things occur in real life. See this post.


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