Mrs. Noodlekugel by Daniel Pinkwater, illustrated by Adam Stower
Siblings Nick and Maxine have just moved into an apartment building where they live on an upper floor. Soon after they moved in, they discovered a tiny house behind their apartment building, but they could not figure out how to get there. They decided to ask the janitor of the building who told them they had to go through the boiler room. But their parents told them not to bother the woman who lived in the house and not to visit. Of course, the two children just had to meet her. So they traveled through the dark, pipe-filled boiler room and off to the sweet little house where they met Mrs. Noodlekugel and her talking cat, Mr. Fuzzface. She fed them apple cookies (baked by Mr. Fuzzface) and tea. She insisted that the four mice be invited to the tea, because you can’t have tea without mice. And that was just the first time that the children came to visit!
Pinkwater has created a jolly book for beginning readers here. It has the wonderful charm of an old-fashioned story filled with baked goods, talking animals and more than a touch of magic. At the same time, it takes place in an urban setting of apartment buildings and the city. Pinkwater’s writing is as solid as ever, creating a strong foundation for the story.
Stower’s art adds to that feeling of the juxtaposition of vintage and new. There are full-page illustrations and then others that offer just small images on the page. The illustrations have a wonderful sweetness to them, especially as the magic starts.
A cheery book for new readers, this is a confection of a book for children starting to read chapter books on their own. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from library copy.
The Secret Tree by Natalie Standiford
The neighborhood that Minty lived in had some very interesting stories. There was the Man-Bat, a huge combination of man and bat that lived in the woods. On the other side of the woods was the Witch’s House, where Minty’s best friend Paz was brave enough to knock but then lost her little sister’s favorite stuffed animal when the witch emerged and grabbed her. When Minty saw a flash in the woods one day, she headed off to see what it was. That’s how she met Raymond, a boy who lived alone in the new development model house. She also discovered the Secret Tree, a hollow tree where people in town left their secrets. She and Raymond started collecting the secrets and trying to match them with people. Who is the person who is only loved by their goldfish? Who has put a curse on their enemy? Who is betraying their best friend? And what secrets are the people closest to Minty keeping?
Standiford has created a compelling story about the power of secrets, but also the necessity for them at times. The slow unraveling of the mysteries of the secrets makes for fascinating reading that will capture the interest of children. It is one of those books that reads lightly, but has a great deal of depth behind it, especially as the secrets of the community are revealed.
Minty is a great heroine. She is at the cusp of becoming a teen and her best friend is maturing faster than she is. Minty isn’t interested in laying out in the sun at the pool (at least not without eating a snow-cone) and she doesn’t like the new, older girls her friend is hanging out with. Instead Minty wants to plan on becoming a roller derby star, discover the secrets around her, and just be herself.
This rich novel will be a great pick for classroom reading and discussions. It is also the ideal summer read, especially for all of us who love a great secret. Appropriate for ages 10-13.
Reviewed from ARC received from Scholastic.