Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle meets Mary Poppins.
Pinkwater is renowned for peculiar premises, and here he delivers again. Peering through a window and spotting a small house far below their new apartment, curious Nick and Maxine make their way down to the boiler room and out the rear exit. Waiting to welcome them at the end of a tidy garden is Mrs. Noodlekugel—a matronly sort with a distinctly Piggle-Wiggle–ish look in Stower’s loosely drawn illustration—who invites them in for apple cookies and tea. Joined by a multitalented talking cat named Mr. Fuzzface (who later takes a brief turn at the piano) and four not exactly blind but very farsighted mice, the children have a splendid time. After learning from their parents that Mrs. Noodlekugel will be their new babysitter, Nick and Maxine return the next day to make “gingermice” cookies that get up and dance before running outside to, their chaperone casually suggests, probably be eaten by crows. Written in mannered prose (free of contractions, except for the children’s dialogue), printed in generously sized type and liberally strewn with vignettes and larger illustrations, this ends abruptly and reads overall like the opening chapter of an episodic tale for newly fledged readers.
Good news, if so. It is, to quote the children’s reaction to the gingermice, “extremely entertaining—and weird.” (Fantasy. 8-10)