Originally posted on my blog guiltlessreading
I love that name, it just brings a smile to my face. And I am willing to bet that your youngster will too. (All together now ... Mrs. Noodlekugel!) The whimsy, imagination and sheer fun of this book is endearing. But there are few things that concern me if I were reading this to my youngster ...
The book in one sentence: Urban kids Nick and Maxine discover their newbabysitter, Mrs. Noodlekugel in a cute and seemingly magical little house tucked away in the sea of highrises!
I have never read Daniel Pinkwater before but he is highly regarded for children's books. While Mrs. Noodlekugel is recommended for ages 6-10, I find that it would probably appeal to the younger end of the spectrum. Why?
The story is extremely simple. Nick and Maxine live in an apartment and looking out their window (by climbing on top of of the chest of drawers - goodness, this is not encouraging), they can barely see a lovely little house amidst the jungle of high-rises. They decide they must visit, especially when their parents tell them not to! (again, wrong message to the youngster here). So off they go and they enter Mrs. Noodlekugel's world, where you can talk with cats and have tea, and blind mice join in. Enchanted and bent on returning to this magical house, they return home and find out that their parents had tricked them ... Mrs. Noodlekugel is actually their new babysitter!
Right off the bat, I loved the illustrations by Adam Stower. Look at that cover: a friendly grandmotherly Mrs. Noodelkugel, a cat serving tea and cookies, and smiling faces! Inside, while the illustrations are still in rough draft, they already look amazing!
The names are also very memorable. I love the sound of Mrs. Noodlekugel because it sounds like a little rhyme or tongue twister. Mr. Fuzzface is also quick to remember.
The premise of the story sounded really promising to me. While it reminds me vaguely of the "magical" nanny stories out there, like Mary Poppins or Nanny McPhee, it somehow failed to deliver because of the lack of the storyline -- nothing really happens except for a little tea party with a talking cat and magical gingerbread baking.
I also found the story to be lacking a moral to it -- and the two times where the kids are doing what they're not supposed to be doing -- that just raised red flags in my mind, especially if this is read to younger kids.
I'm unsure if the slimness of the story was intentional ... maybe setting us all up for a series of adventures with Mrs. Noodlekugel?
There is also something a little off-putting with the magical gingerbread baking. Even the children in the story pointed it out. Imagine: mice laying down on your cookie dough. Enough said.
Lastly, I found myself stumbling on words. The sentences do not seem to flow right when read out loud. For example, I noticed that while the sentences were extremely simple, they seemed to be rather stilted and actually unrealistic (I think it was the repeated use of "did not" "would not" "was not" ... it started to grate on my nerves.)
Verdict: Where whimsy and a promise of more magic will hold your attention, but you come away expecting just a little more.
Check out Daniel Pinkwater's really quirky website, pinkwater.com
I received a advanced reading copy courtesy of Goodreads First Reads.