A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
APRIL 1:

  • Happy birthday Anne McCaffrey (Dragon Song), Jan Wahl (Pleasant Fieldmouse), Edward Myers (Storyteller), Karen Wallace (Bears in the Forest), and Tad Hills (How Rocket Learned to Read).
  • It’s the birth date of Margaret Scherf (1908–1979) Glass on the Stairs, and Augusta Baker (1911–1998), Young Years: Best Loved Stories and Poems for Little Children.
  • Best birthday wishes to the fictional pranksters Fred and George Weasley from the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling.
  • Birthday greetings also go to the computer company Apple Inc., formed by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in 1976. Read Steve Jobs & Steve Wozniak: Geek Heroes Who Put the Personal in Computers by Mike Venezia.

April 1 marks a lot of holidays. It begins Laugh at Work Week and International Pooper Scooper Week and has been designated Reading is Funny Day and National Fun Day.  April has been set aside to celebrate National Humor, Pets Are Wonderful (PAW), and Dog Appreciation. When I saw all of these events, I had a revelation. I will talk about funny dog books, and only funny dog books, during the month of April…April Fools!

Pranks aside, I didn’t invent any of the celebrations listed above, so in honor of all these holidays, I will talk about funny dog books, just for today: Cynthia Rylant’s Henry and Mudge series.

Cynthia Rylant did not have an easy path to crafting lighthearted humorous stories for children. Growing up in the home of her grandparents in Cool Ridge, West Virginia, she faced the divorce of her parents when she was four and lived in poverty. Later as a young woman in her twenties while working in the children’s section of a library, she read her first children’s book. She became fascinated with them and read obsessively to find the books she had missed. Rylant has written successfully in many formats, including novels and poetry. However, she began by creating picture books about the area of the country that she knew, When I Was Young in the Mountains and The Relatives Came.

In 1987 she began a series of easy to read books, ideal for preschool through third grade, about a boy named Henry and his 180 pound English mastiff Mudge. Essentially, the books are a love story between a boy and his dog, two friends who stay together all the time. In the first book, Henry convinces his parents to let him get a pet because he has no brothers or sisters. At first a small fluffball, Mudge grows to be three feet tall and delights in sitting on Henry. Although he is larger than Henry, Mudge still loves sleeping in Henry’s bed.

Like all of Rylant’s writing, a good deal of her real life has been incorporated into the stories. Henry was based on her son Nate, and her former husband owned large dogs like Mudge. With a strong sense of family, the books about these characters celebrate the everyday pleasures of life—spring, snow, puddles, Thanksgiving. Each book contains several short stories told with a poetic text that captures the cadence of oral storytelling and makes the stories enjoyable to return to again and again. Suçie Stevenson’s drawings bring both the characters to life and provide scenes and settings for these sunny, happy books.

Rylant once wrote “some children who have suffered a loss too great for words grow up into writers who are always trying to find those words, trying to find meaning for the way they have lived.” In the Henry and Mudge series Cynthia Rylant has found words for the joy and beauty of being a child—and having a dog as a best friend.

I hope you enjoy April Fools Day. Mine has been made much more joyful by rereading several Henry and Mudge stories.

Here a page from Henry and Mudge: The First Book:


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Originally posted April 1, 2011. Updated for .

Tags: Animals, Dogs, Family, Seasons
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for Henry and Mudge
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COMMENTS

  1. Sydnee says:

    My favorite thing about this series is that despite being made of only the simplest words Rylant is still able to incorporate a great story. It really speaks volumes about how far beginning readers have come since my parents learned to read.

  2. suzi w. says:

    I did an informal study one summer and read all the Cynthia Rylant books at a particular library. She even had board books!!

  3. G.Perry says:

    I first discovered Cynthia Rylant on my way to becoming a master of a little book that changed my life.

    I too came to children’s books only as an adult. The little book mentioned above was “100 Best Books for Children” by Anita Silvey, and it was that book, after researching a long list of similar books. The one I used to fill in an empty place in childhood.

    When I read what Anita said about Rylant’s background in 100 Best Books for Children, there was a sudden gasp in my breathing for a moment, of surprise. Surprise because I knew immediately I had just been formally introduced to a rare, and I mean rare, kindred Spirit.

    I’ve since taken Rylant to heart. I’ll likely never meet her. but I think our soul-shadows cross (so to speak) out in the universe. You know each other because some types of early-day events leave an invisible mark, and you can often detect that in another.

    I’m reading all of your work Cynthia.

    Go forever well and happy my girl.

  4. Erika says:

    I love, love, love Henry & Mudge. When my daughter was learning to read, these were the books we read together. And they’re just so sweet and calming–one of our favorites was “Henry & Mudge and the Sparkle Days.” It’s just a nice story about the pleasures of winter. I was so sad when I realized we’d gotten to the end of the series.

    Thank you so much for this story about Cynthia Rylant!

  5. Rebecca says:

    I just started reading these books with my six year old and I’m delighting in them all over again – as is he. Only problem: now he wants a dog. Happy April and Happy Dog Appreciation! (But I still said no!)

  6. kkosko says:

    The extremely talented Rylant also wrote the quiet books ‘The Old Woman Who Named Things’ and “I Had Seen Castles”. She writes for all children.

  7. Margo says:

    I think that Henry and Mudge and her other easy reader series Mt. Putter and Tabby are masterpieces of the genre! I’ve only seen an English mastiff once and I yelled out loud “Mudge!” You don’t run into them every day, that’s for sure!

  8. Momo says:

    I found my first Henry and Mudge book in an old run down second hand book shop here in Australia and I was hooked straight away. One of the things I love about being a teacher-librarian is having a buget that allows me to indulge my book passions so having fallen in love with big Mudge I set out to buy lots of these titles for our library along with the off shoot series about Annie and Snowball. I also agree with Margo above that Mr Putter and Tabby is another terrific junior series – great stories and yet perfect for beginners. I discovered Mr Putter through Horn book.

  9. Anita says:

    Momo: Thanks for this post and your others. It is so nice to have a voice from Australia on the website.

  10. Annie Norton says:

    Cynthia Rylant has a way with words that can be appreciated by children and adults alike.
    As a children’s librarian now retired Henry and Mudge was introduced to every one of my first graders from 1987 on.
    She had a wonderful website,too that unfortunately has since disappeared. It became part of their introduction to this amazing wordsmith who invited her website viewers to “put a cat upon your lap and enjoy a cup of tea” as you enjoyed her musings.

  11. I love Cynthia Rylant’s The Old Woman Who Named Things, but I never read Henry and Mudge.

    Henry and Mudge seems to be the perfect easy to read book series for my twins!

    Thanks again for this great recommendation.

    Read Aloud Dad

  12. Anita says:

    Read Aloud Dad: Glad to recommend them to you, a wonderful series.

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