The Indoor Noisy Book by Margaret Wise Brown was written in 1942. I received a hardcover copy of it in the 1950s. This book, a colorfully illustrated story of the little dog Muffin who has a cold and must stay inside to rest, was a gift from my across-the-street neighbor John.
John was a bit younger than I was, but we were constant companions. We spent many happy hours playing together in his rumpus room, or on the swings in his backyard, or spellbound in front of the TV when “The Mickey Mouse Club” came on. We pretended to be our personal favorites on the show: Karen and Cubby. We went to each other’s birthday parties, and one year, he gave me a copy of The Indoor Noisy Book. He had written: “To Risa from John” inside with a crayon. The slanted leg on the “R” was doing a high kick and the “s” was backwards. We were around 5 years old.
At my birthday party. John is standing next to me in those crazy striped pants.
The book lives up to its title: all the sounds in and around the household, from footsteps coming up the stairs, to the noises in the kitchen, to the telephone ringing, and the rain turning into sleet and falling on the roof are spelled out and illustrated. The main characters wear old-fashioned clothes and they live in a fancy house with a cook.
There is some guesswork involved at the end, with very silly suggestions about who exactly was coming up the stairs to see Muffin. I loved that book. I kept it in the room my sister and I shared far beyond the time when it was age appropriate.
John moved away when we were still quite young, and beside the black and white birthday party photos of a strawberry blond boy squinting into the sun, that dear boy who was really kind of shy, the book was the only memento I had to remember him by. As I recall, his family came back to Richmond for a visit once or twice. We were shy around each other then, having lost the every-dayness of our friendship.
My family moved several years later, and I took the book with me.
I moved out of my parents’ house when I was seventeen, and I packed the book along with my special letters and cards. It survived several moves after that, and had a spot on our bookshelf in the first little apartment my husband and I lived in after we got married.
Eventually, I read this book to my three children, who still say, “The little dog Muffin has a cold,” when they or their children are sick– even now that they are all grown up.
|Muffin at home, trying to rest
But the book was lost, along with everything else, when our house burned to the ground in the fire of 1991. It may not have been the first thing I mourned, but I did feel the loss. The fire happened shortly before my 40th birthday, and if there was ever a symbol of my youth . . . this was it. A silly, sweet child’s book–with my name and a backwards “s” inscribed in crayon by my best childhood friend. Treasures come in all sizes, and this one was huge–at least to me.
But then, several years ago, my daughter located a copy of the book on eBay and surprised me with it on Christmas.
I laughed, I cried, I read it out loud through my tears. We all loved that book.
The link to my girlhood was restored–and it made me as happy as the little dog Muffin, when he could go outside again to listen to the birds and the trucks.