From the publisher: "Nick and Maxine live in a tall building with one apartment on top of another. So when they look out their window and see a little house they never knew was there, of course they must visit (especially when their parents tell them not to!). Going through the boiler room, they’re amazed to find to a secret backyard with a garden, a porch, and a statue of a cat. And they’re even more amazed when that cat starts to talk. . . . Welcome to the world of Mrs. Noodlekugel, where felines converse and serve cookies and tea, vision-impaired mice join the party (but may put crumbs up their noses), and children in search of funny adventures are drawn by the warm smell of gingerbread and the promise of magical surprises."
This book would have been ideal for my newly emerging readers: it has a kid-appealing story with just enough fantasy, folly, and humor (and plenty of charming black-and-white illustrations by Adam Stower) to keep a beginning reader's attention, in addition to great cover appeal (for girls, anyway.) But be aware that this book has a limited readership, given that the text is overly simplistic (quite Dick-and-Jane-ish, just in longer chapter form.) It is, in effect, a long beginning reader, when the child has mastered the basics but still needs some help.
The problem is that the publisher's info page of the book makes no mention of the ages for which it's suited. Upon further research online, it is listed for the 5 to 10 age group, but again, just be aware that this is for young beginning readers. They will likely be the only ones excited about the story. (Both my older girls tried reading the book. My nine-year-old brought it back to me after a couple of pages, declaring it a book for babies and utterly annoying. My seven-year-old persevered to the end, declaring it a cute story, but written for "little kids." She hadn't heard her sister's scorn of the book, as she was asleep the night her sister tried to read it.)
Published in March 2012 by Candlewick.