The Arthur Children's Books
by Marc Brown

The Arthur children's books
by Marc Brown

Children's books review by P.J. Rooks

Ages 4-8

Our local library doesn't have a single one of the Arthur children's books on the shelves. Not one! Is it possible that they've somehow overlooked Marc Brown's beloved aardvark, childhood friend to millions for over three decades and the star of his own t.v. series on PBS Kids?

No. It isn't possible.

Review continues below.

altered cover image from The World of Arthur and Friends

The library shelves are bereft of Arthur books because every single copy they own is at my house and my daughter won't let me take them back! (Let's not bring that to the library's attention, though…) I beg, I plead -- "Claire, this is terribly rude," I tell her -- but no, the Arthur books stay. And every time we go to the library, she looks for more. She's an Arthur children's books collector, but I have to admit, if I was a collection-prone kid, Arthur would be at the top of my list too.

Arthur is a sincere seven-year-old with an annoying little sister, D.W., and a puppy named Pal. He makes childhood fun and school appealing with the cast of close and not-so close friends that make up his days: Binky (the bully), Francine (the mean), best friends Buster and The Brain, and more. We the readers get to tag along through his foibles and embarrassments, successes and celebrations.

Eight Arthur children's books

Here is a quick run-down of the Arthur children's books our library is currently missing:

Arthur's Birthday Surprise: Arthur gets a rare hug and compliment from his normally antagonistic little sister, D.W., when he throws together a last-minute replacement for Mary Moo Cow, the performer who called in sick to her birthday party.

Arthur's Jelly Beans: At Muffy's Spring Fling Party, all his friends are complaining about Arthur's perpetual slowness -- until his steadfast persistence wins him a huge chocolate egg. Does he share with the pals that razzed him? Of course!

Arthur's Computer Disaster: Arthur really wants to play Deep Dark Sea on the computer. After all, it is the greatest game in the universe and he is really close to finding the thing, so when Mom leaves for the day and tells him to stay away from the computer, he can't help but disobey. Whoops -- busted! Now the computer is broken. What to do? What to do?

Arthur's TV Trouble: A commercial break during The Bionic Bunny Show features the must-have Treat Timer for dogs. Clearly, anyone who doesn't own a Treat Timer doesn't really love their dog. Of course, Arthur must have one, so he helps a neighbor with a garage clean-out to raise the money. But is the Treat Timer really all it's talked up to be? So much for those "As Seen On TV" ads!

Arthur's New Puppy: Arthur's family celebrates the arrival of little Pal, chewer extraordinaire, but the welcome is short-lived when they realize what a huge mess a puppy can make. Pal is to be banished to the garage, if only they can find the key. Meanwhile, Arthur gets busy and starts a training school in his back yard for Pal. Maybe if they both work hard enough, Pal will get to stay in the house after all.

Arthur's Teacher Trouble: Arthur's got the hardest teacher in the school, Mr. Ratburn, and while all the other classes are having field trips and popcorn parties, "The Rat's" class is gearing up for the spelling bee. Arthur studies everywhere, in spite of the constant harassments of his little sister, and when the big day comes, his winning word is "preparation." And what does he win? Well, a cup of course, but even more so, vindication. Turns out that "The Rat" will be teaching kindergarten next year -- bummer for you, D.W.

Arthur Lost in the Museum: On a class field trip, Arthur really needs to go to the bathroom and finally, given permission from Mr. Ratburn, he sets off to follow the directions he was given: bathroom -- first door on the left. Whoops, other left, Arthur, other left! Instead of the bathroom, Arthur finds himself in a diorama of pilgrims and Indians and, to his horror, his class is on the other side of the glass, laughing at him. Arthur is sure to be in big trouble if "The Rat" catches him! Can he escape and find the bathroom?

Arthur's Thanksgiving: Being the director of the school play sounded like lots of fun, but managing the other kids and their ideas is a job that turns out to be, at best, a bit too political. And what's worse -- no one, absolutely no one, is willing to play the part of the turkey. Arthur does everything he can to find a turkey and finally resigns himself to having to wear the embarrassing costume. But when his big onstage moment arrives, he finds that several other turkeys have shown up, unannounced, including his parents, best friend, and even the onerous D.W. With the support of those who love him, Arthur doesn't feel like such a turkey after all.

There are so many great Arthur children's books, each one of them a sweet celebration of family and childhood. Arthur has his own website, if you'd like to learn more, at PBS Kids.

Read more of P.J.'s reviews.

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