by Ruth Christoffer Carlsen
One of the great joys of going to school in the 60s was the Scholastic Book Club. Every month or so, you'd get a list of books, all available for dirt cheap prices, even for the time -- sometimes as little as a quarter (when paperbacks were 50-75 cents). And in among the various books I picked up was the wonderful, Mr. Pudgins, by Ruth Christoffer Carlsen.
When I read it, the book was marketed as being similar to Mary Poppins. The idea was simple. Mr. Pudgins would come by to babysit for John, Pete, and Jane. At some point, he would sit back and smoke his pipe* and then magical things would happen.
For instance, John, Pete, and Jane would meet their mirror images who came out of the mirror to play -- and didn't want to go back. The water faucets would have running soda, bathtubs would fly, and cars would turn into motorboats.
The stories were written in a very matter-of-fact style as the kids first were delighted by the new changes, but then discovered they weren't unmitigated successes. It's not a book with a lot of action, but plenty of wonder.
This was the first novel for Carlsen (age 90 and living in Iowa City, IA). It took her 14 years before she published another, Henrietta Goes West, and wrote several more before disappearing (though she is still writing).
The book is hard to find, and I'm afraid the pipe smoking means it may never be reprinted. That's a shame, since a book this wonderful deserves to be remembered.
*This was before the Surgeon General's Report.