If you’re unfamiliar with Marc Brown’s Arthur books, you may not immediately see the charm in a picture book series featuring an aardvark.
But take my word for it. Arthur is wonderful.
I read many an Arthur book when my children were small. I also watched countless Arthur cartoons on PBS, thankful for a respite from that insipid duo, Barney and Baby Bop.
Now, to celebrate the 35th anniversary of America’s favorite aardvark, Marc Brown has written "Arthur Turns Green" ($16.99; Little, Brown), his first Arthur picture book in nearly 10 years. He’s also visiting Charlotte. He’ll be at Park Road Books, 4139 Park Road, at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, April 5.
Brown is planning a Power Point presentation, he told me in a recent interview, to show kids where he lives and works and where his characters come from. He’s hoping to inspire his readers to write their own stories.
He’ll also read "Arthur Turns Green," the story of Arthur’s attempts to save energy and the planet.
Brown, 64, now has more than 80 Arthur books, and PBS’s "Arthur" show remains the nation’s No. 1 children’s series. It also has, in my humble opinion, the best theme song -- a reggae number by Ziggy Marley.
How did Arthur begin? As a bedtime story, Brown told me. His son wanted an animal tale. An aardvark was the first animal that popped into Brown’s head.
Brown’s first Arthur book, "Arthur’s Nose," features an Arthur with a long aardvarkian nose, very different from today’s character. Over the next several years, Arthur Read evolved into the earnest, bespectacled 8-year-old aardvark we love today.
Funny thing is, today, Arthur hardly has a nose at all. "It’s a little like the Michael Jackson story," Brown says.