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Christmas at Henry and Mudge's house means cookies and carols and presents, and the whole family gathering for a delicious breakfast (with lots of food falling on the floor for Mudge). It may just be the best Christmas ever but Henry's favorite present is the big, lovable dog he's had all along.
About the Author
Cynthia Rylant is the author of more than 100 books for young people, including the beloved Henry and Mudge, Annie and Snowball, Brownie & Pearl, and Mr. Putter & Tabby series. Her novel Missing May received the Newbery Medal. She lives in Lake Oswego, Oregon. Visit her at CynthiaRylant.com.
Table of Contents
The Best Present
Reading Group Guide
A Guide for Reading Groups to
The Henry and Mudge Series
By Cynthia Rylant
Illustrated by Suçie Stevenson
About This Series
“Bravo Henry and Mudge,” cheers School Library Journal. “May they go on forever.” The Horn Book joins the chorus: “These books are lively, reassuring, and comical – just right for newly independent readers, with cartoon-style illustrations that gallop, skip, and splash right along with the text.”
Henry and his endearing dog Mudge have been beguiling beginning readers ever since their first adventure was published in 1987. Twenty-eight titles are now available in the Ready-to-Read line, each an engaging launch for lively classroom discussions, intriguing projects, and a lifelong love of reading.
Cynthia Rylant is the award-winning author of many wonderful books for children, including the Newbery Medal-winning Missing May, the Newbery Honor book A Fine White Dust, and the Caldecott Honor books When I Was Young in the Mountains and The Relatives Came.
Suçie Stevenson is the illustrator of the Henry and Mudge series. She resides in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
1. Henry and Mudge, the very first book in the series, is all about how the two friends found each other. Why did Henry need Mudge? Why did Mudge need Henry? How did they know, right from the start, that they were meant for each other?
2. Mudge is a huge dog, but there are still plenty of animals bigger than he is. With your class, make a list of all the big creatures that make even Mudge look puny.
3. Family plays a big role in the Henry and Mudge series. Henry’s cousin Annie and Uncle Ed live next door. Henry and Mudge like to visit with Great Grandpa Bill and Uncle Jake. Why is family important to Henry and Mudge? What does Henry learn from his family members? And what do his family members learn in turn from Henry and Mudge?
4. Even though Henry and his cousin Annie, in Henry and Mudge and the Careful Cousin, have very different ideas at first about what is fun, they still find a way to play together. Discuss how they reconcile their differences. Have your students ever been in a similar situation? Were they able to find common ground? How?
5. Henry and Mudge and Henry’s parents make a trip to visit Great Grandpa Bill in Henry and Mudge and the Great Grandpas. Despite the fact that the Grandpas are considerably older than Henry (and Mudge), they still know how to have fun! What surprises Henry during his visit? How are the Great Grandpas in some ways similar to Henry? And how are they different?
6. Mudge might not be the smartest dog in the world, but when he goes to a dog school in Henry and Mudge Take the Big Test, he learns a lot. Discuss some of the qualities that make him a good pupil. What can your students learn from his example?
7. In Henry and Mudge and Annie’s Perfect Pet, Henry thinks and thinks until he and his parents come up with “the perfect pet” for his cousin Annie—a fluffy bunny that Annie names Snowball. Why do Henry and his parents decide that a bunny is a perfect pet for Annie? Poll each of your students to find out what their “perfect pet” would be.
8. Henry and Mudge are an adventuresome pair! They go on many journeys and trips in their books. They take a long car ride to the “Wild West” in Henry and Mudge and the Tumbling Trip. They visit a farm in Henry and Mudge and the Wild Goose Chase. Ask your students to talk about their favorite Henry and Mudge adventure. If your students could choose to go anywhere they wanted for a vacation or adventure, where would they go? What fun activities would they do while they were there?
9. Mudge is well-liked by people and even by other animals! However, when Henry and Mudge visit a farm in Henry and Mudge and the Wild Goose Chase, an unfriendly goose decides to make Mudge feel unwelcome. Why do your students think the goose reacted to Mudge that way? What qualities does Mudge have that makes him so likeable to just about everyone else?
10. When Henry is scared or worried, how does he react? How does Mudge help soothe Henry’s fears? How does Henry soothe Mudge’s fears? What do your students do when they are upset? What calms them down?
11. Henry’s first impression of Mrs. Hopper, his friendly neighbor across the street, is great. But his first impression of her house—with its dark windows and gargoyle on the door—is just the opposite! After reading Henry and Mudge and Mrs. Hopper’s House, talk about first impressions. Discuss how Henry’s first impression of Mrs. Hopper’s house is ultimately wrong. Have your students ever had a wrong first impression about something? What helped them to change their minds?
12. We meet Henry’s “burly” Uncle Jake in Henry and Mudge and the Tall Tree House. Who does Uncle Jake remind your students of? How does Henry try to keep everyone happy in this story? How is the end of this story a perfect solution to Henry’s problem?
13. What wishes would your students make on a shooting star? In Henry and Mudge in the Sparkle Days, Henry wishes for chocolate pudding every day. His father hopes for world peace. His mother wants her favorite basketball team to win. Post your class’s special wishes on a bulletin board.
14. Discuss what it means to be a friend. What do your students look for in a friend? How do they help their friends? How do their friends help them? How can they make themselves even better at being a friend?
15. In Henry and Mudge and the Big Sleepover, Henry tells his parents that Mudge was the best dog at Patrick’s sleepover. Why does Henry think that Mudge was the best dog there? What other reasons can your students think of that make Mudge a great dog and a great friend? How does Henry feel about Mudge not winning the popcorn catching contest?
16. What future Henry and Mudge adventures would your students like to read? As a class, brainstorm some potential upcoming titles in the Henry and Mudge series. Then, have each of your students create their own Henry and Mudge story!
Activities, Projects and Research
1. After sharing Henry and Mudge and the Great Grandpas with your class, make a date to visit a local senior center, nursing home or assisted living facility in your community. Once there, have your students practice reading with the seniors. Or, bring along materials for a simple craft that your students and the seniors can work on together.
2. Imagine that Henry and Mudge paid a visit to your classroom. Ask your students to write a story about or draw pictures of their visit. Would Henry and Mudge be treated like celebrities or just ordinary folks? Would your classroom need to be rearranged to accommodate Mudge? Encourage your students to be both specific and imaginative.
3. Invite a dog trainer into your classroom, either a professional or someone with experience doing it for themselves. Ask them for advice about raising a young puppy. What are some of the common mistakes that new dog owners make? What are the responsibilities of dog ownership? What are some of the pleasures? How well does the dog trainer think Henry is doing with Mudge?
4. The importance of traditions is a theme in several of the Henry and Mudge books. Henry and his dad make a unique Mother’s Day lunch every year in Henry and Mudge and the Funny Lunch. And in Henry and Mudge and a Very Merry Christmas, Henry and Mudge and Henry’s parents demonstrate the traditional ways they celebrate the holiday. Talk to your students about traditions. What is a tradition? Why are they significant? Do your students have any special family traditions that they can share with the class?
5. Henry and Mudge collect several souvenirs from their trip to the Wild West in Henry and Mudge and the Tumbling Trip. Discuss souvenirs with your students. What is the meaning of the word “souvenir”? Why do people buy souvenirs when they travel? Host a “souvenir show and tell day” in your classroom. Ask your students to bring in a souvenir from a recent trip, and have them share with the class why they chose that souvenir to remember their trip.
6. In Henry and Mudge in the Green Time, the two friends climb the hill in back of Henry’s house and pretend that they are looking down at their kingdom. If there is a nearby hill in your community, climb it. If there is a tall building, try to take your class to an upper floor. Your students should bring drawing materials with them and make pictures to show how their neighborhood looks when observed from way up high.
7. Initiate a pet-friendly classroom project in honor of Mudge. Your class can collect old towels and sheets from the families in your school to donate to a local animal shelter or humane society, where they would be used for the dogs and cats in their care. Sponsor a school-wide pet food drive. Or, host a bake sale during lunch or after school and give the proceeds to a local animal based charity.
8. Introduce Henry and Mudge into your science curriculum: the changing seasons: (Henry and Mudge in Puddle Trouble; Henry and Mudge in the Green Time; Henry and Mudge Under the Yellow Moon; Henry and Mudge in the Sparkle Days); sea life (Henry and Mudge and the Forever Sea); plant life (Henry and Mudge in the Puddle Trouble); health and wellness (Henry and Mudge Get the Cold Shivers); and storms (Henry and Mudge and the Wild Wind).
9. Spend May Day with Henry and Mudge. The first of May is Henry’s birthday. Be sure to mark his special day with a celebration in your class.
10. Each Henry and Mudge book features a word or several words that might not be familiar to your students. For example, in Henry and Mudge and the Big Sleepover, the word “knickknack” is introduced. And in Henry and Mudge and Mrs. Hopper’s House, your students will encounter the word “gargoyle”. Ask your students to make a list of the new words they learn after reading each Henry and Mudge book. Then, designate part of a bulletin board in your classroom as a Henry and Mudge “word wall”. Post each new word on this wall. Ask your students to use these new vocabulary words in an upcoming writing project, or even in a conversation.
11. Inspired by Henry and Mudge and the Long Weekend, transform a gray day by building a castle in your own classroom. Your students can bring in boxes, discarded cardboard, and other appropriate building materials from home.
12. Henry and Mudge and the Great Grandpas is the first book awarded the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award. This new award, named in honor of Theodor Seuss Geisel (also known as Dr. Seuss), will be given each year by the American Library Association to the author and illustrator of a beginning-reader book that demonstrates “great creativity and imagination.” Do some further research on The Geisel Award. Why was it created? Why is it named after Dr. Seuss? What are the criteria for this award? Why do your students think a Henry and Mudge book was chosen to receive the first Geisel award? Take this opportunity to talk to your students about awards presented to children’s books annually, like the Caldecott and Newbery Medals. Does your state have a children’s book award?
13. In Henry and Mudge and the Big Sleepover, the boys keep busy at the party by playing games, watching movies, eating pizzas, and making shadows on the wall with their hands. Have your students share with each other what activities they would do at their own sleepover parties. Then, take an afternoon, turn out the lights, and have a pretend “sleepover” with your class. Let your students play games, bring in a favorite snack, and demonstrate what shadows they can make with their own hands.
The Henry and Mudge Series
#1 Henry and Mudge
#2 Henry and Mudge in Puddle Trouble
#3 Henry and Mudge in the Green Time
#4 Henry and Mudge Under the Yellow Moon
#5 Henry and Mudge in the Sparkle Days
#6 Henry and Mudge and the Forever Sea
#7 Henry and Mudge Get the Cold Shivers
#8 Henry and Mudge and the Happy Cat
#9 Henry and Mudge and the Bedtime Thumps
#10 Henry and Mudge Take the Big Test
#11 Henry and Mudge and the Long Weekend
#12 Henry and Mudge and the Wild Wind
#13 Henry and Mudge and the Careful Cousin
#14 Henry and Mudge and the Best Day of All
#15 Henry and Mudge in the Family Trees
#16 Henry and Mudge and the Sneaky Crackers
#17 Henry and Mudge and the Starry Night
#18 Henry and Mudge and Annie’s Good Move
#19 Henry and Mudge and the Snowman Plan
#20 Henry and Mudge and Annie’s Perfect Pet
#21 Henry and Mudge and the Tall Treehouse
#22 Henry and Mudge and Mrs. Hopper’s House
#23 Henry and Mudge and the Wild Goose Chase
#24 Henry and Mudge and the Funny Lunch
#25 Henry and Mudge and a Very Merry Christmas
#26 Henry and Mudge and the Great Grandpas
#27 Henry and Mudge and the Tumbling Trip
#28 Henry and Mudge and the Big Sleepover
This reading group guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers • Aladdin Paperbacks
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
My kids love all of these books and this one was a winner just like all the other Henry and Mudge books! Perfect book for little kids, simple but cute. I can see us reading this book in July waiting for Christmas to come!