Arthur Read is an eight-year-old aardvark with a legion of fans. From toddlers to independent readers, kids adore him. Amazingly, parents do, too. Author and illustrator Marc Brown has created a series that miraculously appeals to a wide range of ages (including this 34-year-old reviewer who will, on occasion, plan the afternoon around Arthur's show on public TV). It is one of the few kid's television programs parents can endorse without misgivings or even a roll of their eyes. It's not violent, cloyingly cute, or completely mystifying. It's Arthur.
Arthur's appeal is partly due to Brown's ability to create convincing, multilayered personalities kids identify with. Arthur and his friends seem real there is not one goodie-two-shoes in the bunch and when they screw up, which is often, they deal with the consequences. His characters are types the smart kid, the funny kid, the rich kid, the tomboy, etc. but they are convincing types who grow and evolve as the series expands. They are friends despite, or perhaps because of, their differences. They don't so much celebrate the differences, as tacitly accept them. Tolerance is status quo.
The Arthur Family Treasury combines three popular Arthur books in one volume: Arthur's Family Vacation, Arthur's Baby, and Arthur's Birthday. Fred Rogers, preschool icon, lends his seal of approval by writing the foreword. (Mr. Rogers, ever the good sport, allowed himself to be animated in a recent Arthur television episode.) Each story is about 30 pages long, with an ideal balance of text and illustration on each page. Witty visual details, likely to be lost on younger listeners, enrich the experience for older ones (and adults). In addition to this popular format, many Arthur stories are available as board books for the very young and chapter books for independent readers. It's no accident Arthur's last name is Read. His continuing adventures give kids the simple pleasures of a good story, and encourage a love of books and reading that will hopefully last a lifetime. This makes The Arthur Family Treasury a family treasure, indeed.
Joanna Brichetto writes in Nashville. Her five-year-old daughter is a proud member of the Arthur Fan Club.