Lynn: I have long been cheering for the work of the New York Review Children’s Collection, re-issuing classic children’s books that have gone out of print. But when I opened one of their latest deliveries, I was dancing around my kitchen! Yes! Inside was their publication of George Mendoza’s Need a House? Call Ms. Mouse (NYRB, 2023)! Originally published by Grosset & Dunlap in 1981 the book was one of my sons’ ALL TIME favorite books and we nearly wore out the pages reading it over and over. When my grandsons came along, of course, I hauled out the book for them and they were mesmerized. I am so delighted to see this book reach a new generation of readers!
Ms. Henrietta Mouse is world famous architect, designing the perfect house for each of her woodland clients. She know just what features each creature needs, building a house that is perfectly suited for each one’s unique needs. Doris Susan Smith’s exquisitely detailed illustrations are the true highlight of the book. After introducing Ms. Mouse, shown working in her awesome office and home, each bright 2-page spread features a Ms. Mouse-designed home of a particular creature. We see Squirrel’s space-ship style airy treehouse, Frog’s tri-level lily pad, lizard’s special beach house and many more. My boys of both generations would study each design carefully, critiquing the features and marveling at the ideas. Each time we read it we would chose a favorite design, dreaming of what living in such a house would be like! Each intricate cutaway design took time to pour over as there is so much to absorb! What was better, Rabbit’s root cellar at the top of his burrow, Owl’s eyrie at the peak of a tower, complete with telescope and library or maybe Bear’s cozy den with plenty of honey storage space?
Doris Smith’s bright and imaginative illustrations are just the same but Mendoza’s text has been updated a bit. I’m not sure it was necessary. After all Ms. Mouse was already setting an example as a brilliant professional female with a successful business of her own! The changes are slight happily and this is a gem of a book deserving a new audience of young architects, designers, nature lovers and all young readers who love masterful illustrations! Thank you New York Review for this treasure!