Daniel Pinkwater's Mrs Noodlekugel, a kids' story that's as silly and pleasurable as ice-cream

Daniel Pinkwater, a much-loved living treasure of children's literature, has a new book out today. It's called Mrs Noodlekugel and it is a simple, silly pleasure that feels like the end-product of a lifetime of telling children's stories, carefully removing all the elements that are extraneous to young readers' enjoyment until nothing but the essentials remain. I like to think of Pinkwater's books that way, a kind of skeletal Jenga tower, every extraneous block removed and used to make the structure taller.

Nick and Maxine live in a high-rise apartment building, and one day they discover that one window overlooks a tiny, old fashioned cottage in a small green between their tower and several others. The building's janitor tells them that this is Mrs Noodlekugel's house, and when they quiz their parents about it, they are forbidden to go there.

So they go there. And Mrs Noodlekugel is a sweet old lady who has a talking cat and four nearly-blind mice who get the crumbs from their tea-parties, and she is perfectly pleasant and tells them they're welcome the next day for a gingerbread baking project that the talking cat is undertaking. When the kids tell their parents about this, their parents reveal that they knew all about her, and that she is their new babysitter, and the kids realize they've been tricked.

But they don't mind. They've got Mrs Noodlekugel and the baking. The mice help. And the gingerbread mice -- which the real mice roll around on -- come to life when they come out of the oven. Everyone's delighted by this, and then the crows eat them. But that's OK. They were only gingerbread. And besides, it would be unsanitary to eat cookies that the nearly blind mice rolled around on.

The End.

Adam Stower's illustrations are just a little old fashioned, enough to make them seem, you know, a bit classy, but without losing any of their kid appeal. And Pinkwater is, as always, the Fred Astaire of weird, making the fantastic seem effortless. Reading Pinkwater as a boy made me the happy mutant I am today. Reading Pinkwater today keeps me happily mutated in the face of the world's relentless insistence on normalcy.

Mrs Noodlekugel

(MRS. NOODLEKUGEL. Text copyright © 2012 by Daniel Pinkwater. Illustrations copyright © 2012 by Adam Stower. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA. )


  1.  Is it a coincidence that this is coming out just days after the Pineapple/Hare standardized test question controversy?

    I mean, I highly doubt that Pinkwater or his publisher have the power to create such a brouhaha on their own.  But I could see the publisher rushing the book out a bit quicker to capitalize on Pinkwater’s prominent appearances in Friday’s NYT, Saturday’s Daily News and Saturday’s WSJ, among many other publications.

  2. Of course it is a coincidence.  Practically everything that happens, and certainly everything that happens to me, is a coincidence.  As to a publisher rushing a book out, I have heard it said that can happen, but I have never seen it.

    1.  For the record, I wrote the review above on Feb 26 (at 10:24 Pacific, to be precise!), when I read the advance copy that Candlewick sent me. I actually thought it was rather uncharitable that many of the press outlets that interviewed Daniel about the pineapple thing failed to mention his upcoming book.

    2. Well then, what a great coincidence!    I for one probably wouldn’t have paid attention to Cory’s review if I hadn’t enjoyed a few chuckles at your comments in the WSJ over the weekend.   But now that I know you’re hilarious AND a boingboing reader AND (I just figured this out) the author of Beautiful Yetta (the most wonderfully weird of all PJ Library books)… I think I know one of the things my soon to be 5yo is getting for his birthday.

  3. Does anyone else remember the John Robbins shows (Cover To Cover was one) that used to run on PBS? I’ve always thought that if I ever meet Mr. Robbins I’ve got to thank him for introducing me to Daniel Pinkwater’s books, particularly Lizard Music. And if I ever meet Mr. Pinkwater I’ve got to thank him for opening my very young mind to a delightfully weird world. Or maybe my mind was always open to it, but reading The Magic Moscow showed me where the door was.

    1. Wow, I remember John Robbins! He actually had two or three PBS shows through the years; the old-school, bare-bones-production PBS style shows I grew up on in the late 60s/early 70s.

      Such a laid-back, friendly guy. He could have been Mr. Roger’s literary -minded southern cousin.

      I discovered D. Manus Pinkwater when I was in high school, and working in a library. I read Wing Man right in the kid-section aisle, when I was supposed to be shelving books. (And without knowing it at the time, regularly I saw Mr. and Mrs. Pinkwater and their horses while riding the LIRR through Huntington.)

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