Reviewed by Patricia Simms-Reeve
The best architects not only have imaginative skills related to their profession, but also are sensitive to the client’s needs and personality. Henrietta, Ms Mouse, is a splendid example of this.
This much loved classic, first published in the 1980s, has delighted adults and children alike, for decades. George Mendoza is now 88, and continues to touch many with his inspirational speaking, his art and, of course, his books. Tragically, at the age of 15, he developed an incurable degenerative eye disease which leaves him almost completely blind.
Talented Henrietta is his charming book for very young children (3-7) which tells of this renowned little architect/designer sought after for her cleverly conceived homes for creatures of diverse needs, such as a mole, a trout and a lizard. There is her portfolio of contented clients listed at the beginning….
The variety ranges from a uniquely styled cocoon for the caterpillar, a no-expenses spared opulent palace for the pig, to a luxury tower including astronomical telescope which is an asset to Owl’s already excellent vision. Fox has an ideal home to relax after his busy day of cunning and running, by indulging in a game of chess.
The text is clever and funny, and it is not surprising to learn of its cherished status in children’s literature.
Young parents who loved this book themselves growing up, will be delighted to have it back in print, published this time by Allen and Unwin. For years it was out of print with sought after copies fetching as much as $500. The new French version has completely sold out in the first week. Other countries will probably follow suit!
For it is a book to treasure, not only because it is the story of a small creature often regarded as insignificant, which has amazing talent, but the illustrations are a joy. Finely detailed, they offer entertaining basis for chat and young ones to think of varying outlooks and particular needs. Each of Henrietta’s houses are thoughtfully designed with the intention of making a client’s home comfortable and perfect!
Ironically, despite her great skill in her profession, Henrietta’s own preferred residence is a tent, living simply in the great outdoors!
Need a House? Call Ms Mouse!
by George Mendoza; illustrated by Doris Susan Smith
Allen and Unwin
ISBN 978 176106 601 6