The woman who cuts my hair, Amy, had a particularly hard summer the year her boys had just learned to read. Their school asked that she keep them reading over the summer, but there were only so many Magic Treehouse books she wanted them to read. What other books would be suitable? The minutes flew by in the haircutting chair as I made suggestions and she listened, apparently having a prodigious memory. I didn’t ask. It would have been rude.
I wish I had been able to recommend Daniel Pinkwater’s Mrs. Noodlekugel and Four Blind Mice. I should mention that it is also Adam Stower’s Mrs. Noodlekugel and Four Blind Mice. Mr. Pinkwater wrote it and Mr. Stower illustrated it and together—but separately, as we all know now—they created a memorable book. It wasn’t written when Amy and I talked about books for her boys or it would have been at the top of my list.
The book is absurd. That is a high compliment. It takes talent to write—and draw—absurdity. I am a big fan of James Marshall’s books about The Stupids. I will forever remember “You sure can polka, Dot.” (Taken out of context, that may not be funny.)
In much the same way, there is a crafty amount of context in Mrs. Noodlekugel and Four Blind Mice from page one. We learn where Mrs. Noodlekugel lives in a small house among large apartment buildings in New York City. We learn that she has a cat named Mr. Fuzzface. Next-door-neighbor children Maxine and Nick drop by often, especially when they need babysitting. As it turns out, the four mice who live with Mrs. Noodlekugel cannot see well. They are not, indeed, blind … but they need glasses. The small troupe of characters set off on a city bus to travel to an oculist. They visit a restaurant afterwards where Mrs. Noodlekugel orders cheesecake for the troupe and the newly-sharp-eyed mice (with glasses) get silly on the sugar. A chase ensues.
Within these pages you’ll find high-paced action, hilarity, pathos, and a nifty ending that ties up all of the context Mr. Pinkwater began on page one. You’ll want to study Mr. Stower’s drawings because they will cause you to laugh out loud, especially the waiter who is a monkey and cannot talk. He holds up pre-printed signs instead.
Prediction: You will go to your computer to look up Nesselrode pie. It is an extinct food. I will help: look here and here. When you make some, invite me over. We can read this book out loud together. It is perfect for summer reading. It is even better at making readers laugh.
Mrs. Noodlekugel and Four Blind Mice
written by Daniel Pinkwater
illustrated by Adam Stower
Candlewick Press, 2013