All children hope to find a bit of magic in their own backyards. Maxine and Nick actually do when they discover the cozy abode of Mrs. Noodlekugel, her cat Mr. Fuzzface, and four farsighted mice hidden behind their apartment building.
Maxine and Nick have not been in their apartment long when they notice, by looking out the window at a particularly peculiar angle, that there is a backyard and in that yard, a cute little house. When the Maxine and Nick tell their parents, they ask the children to leave Mrs. Noodlekugel alone. Of course, the children cannot resist. They search and find her house. There they are enchanted by a cat, Mr. Fuzzface, who talks, dances, plays piano, and serves tea; four farsighted mice (children will be squealing over this play on the three blind mice); and, of course, Mrs. Noodlekugel. Best of all, they all bake gingerbread cookies together for which the four farsighted mice serve as cookie cutters! The children are properly concerned and question whether this is sanitary. In a perfect example of Daniel Pinkwater’s deadpan humor, Mrs. Noodlekugel asks if the mice have washed their paws, and Mr. Fuzzface, just like any child, gives an evasive answer: “What?” No matter. Following nursery-rhyme tradition, the gingermice run away!
Warmly illustrated by Adam Stower and told in ten short chapters, the story mixes just the right amount of normal with fairytale throughout. The characters follow motif but are still wonderfully original. Mrs. Noodlekugel appears plump, light-footed, and infectiously cheerful, and her pets are marvelously animated. Pinkwater excels at writing for this age group: using dialogue, he inserts just enough word repetition yet stretches young readers with some new vocabulary. Readers will cheer, just like Maxine and Nick, when they learn that Mrs. Noodlekugel will be the children’s babysitter, ensuring more adventures to come!
Reviewed by JMcD
THEMES: ANIMALS. BROTHERS AND SISTERS. CATS. CURIOSITY. FANTASY. HUMOR. MICE.
Suggested Ages: 6-10