Friday, June 8, 2012

Need a house? Call Ms. Mouse! by George Mendoza, illustrated by Doris Susan Smith

This isn't so much a review as a paean of joy to that special moment of rediscovery when you find a book you'd loved as a child.

Reading aloud was a huge deal in my family, at least for the older kids. One of my few memories of my grandmother who died when I was twelve is of her reading a Christmas story to us. My mom used to walk us to the library and bring back a wagonload of books. She read aloud to us as a family - as did my dad - until I was about eleven and figured out that I could read faster silently than my parents could read aloud, and promptly sneaked the current read aloud and finished them off on my own. Then I read aloud to my younger siblings. I also picked audiobooks for our longer commute. Some of them were appreciated, but I finally gave in and didn't make my brothers finish listening to Anne of Green Gables and the unabridged Robinson Crusoe gets pretty blah after he's rescued.

So I have a vast number of books lurking about in the back of my brain. Especially picture books from the 1980s when I was a child. Some of these are, to put it mildly, odd but I love them anyways. Like Jon Buller's Fanny and May, about two elephant sisters, one of whom just can't control her appetite...and eats their house. Which is made, naturally, of cake.

Or there's my beloved Tangle and the Firesticks by Benedict Blathwyt, which tells the story of a misfit miniature furry creature. The real draw of course, is all the tiny things in the illustrations...

The best moment in rediscovering a childhood book love is that moment when you pick up a book and suddenly realize you've read it before. And all the delight you felt reading it as a child floods in.

So, finally arriving at the focus title of the random meandering...I have no idea why Need a House? was on my to read list. I might have seen it on some blog...or it could have been a leftover from one of my many lists. In any case, I requested it from inter-library loan with no recollection of ever having seen it before. I looked at the cover and thought, "hmm, that looks kind of familiar" opened it up and...

ohhhhhhhhh, the love! I loved, loved, loved this book. It has two of the things I loved most in picture books as a child; small, detailed drawings and organization. Yes, a cataloger from my youth...Ms. Mouse, a brilliant career mouse, designs houses for all her friends. The text is pretty blah - and I don't really remember reading any of it. But the pictures...ohhhh, the pictures. Just looking at them makes me so happy. It's like a combination of Jill Barklem's Brambly Hedge miniature books and Doris Burn's Andrew Henry's Meadow, with the houses designed for each child (both were also favorites of mine). Ms. Mouse not only builds a different style of house for her friends, many of them are also set in different cultures. So Cat has a Japanese-style house with sliding doors and an inner garden courtyard set high in the mountains, where he can lazily sun himself on the open terraces and fly his kite. Trout has a kind of formal French garden maze set with coral hedges. If I knew more about architecture I could probably identify the other places, but you don't need to be an expert to fall in love with this book.

Interestingly, when I was looking for some pictures, I found an old design blog with some of the interior illustrations. You can check them out here.

Alas, I must now return this gem to the library from whence it came, but I've had another lovely "oooohhh" moment and now have a new book to add to my childhood favorites wishlist.


Carole said...

I was wondering whether you would be happy to put up a link in my monthly series called “Books You Love”. The idea is for people to link up posts about a book they loved – it doesn’t have to be one they just posted about. It could be an old fave. I am hoping we will end up with a nice collection of books that can go on our reading lists. Here is the link Books You Loved June Edition

Carole said...

Great that you linked in. Have a great week.
PS I put the book title in for you.