A Gift So Nice I Got It Twice by
(85 Stories)

Prompted By Children's Books

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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 4 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.


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.

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.


Characterizations: funny, moving, right on!, well written


  1. Marian says:

    Awww, this is so lovely, Risa. What a delightful book, and what fun memories of your little friend John. I’m so happy for you that you got a copy of the book albeit without the adorable inscription, to restore part of the sweetness of being a child. This warms my heart.

  2. Sweet, perfect story! I love that your children, and their children, say “The little dog Muffin has a cold,” when they’re sick. I can almost hear them. And I love that photo and how cute you all are all dressed up. ❤️

  3. Suzy says:

    Sounds like an adorable book, and what a sweet inscription from your friend John. We know the heartbreaking story of the Oakland fire and all that you lost, including this wonderful childhood gift. How perfect that your daughter found it on eBay and so you got it as a gift a second time.

  4. Betsy Pfau says:

    You write with such tenderness about the book and your fondness for John. I was sad for you when he moved away (I had such a friend next door. She moved when we were six, but I never saw her again). Reading that book to your own children connected you to your own childhood and all those lovely memories. How terrible that it was lost in the fire. As you say, not the most valuable item, but an irreplaceable memory. Or so you thought.

    How sweet that your children found a copy on eBay. It may not have the cute signature inside, but it does bring back all the memories that you’ve just shared with us. I’m so glad you did.

  5. Laurie Levy says:

    Risa, your story has me in tears. First you lost your special friend John when he moved away, and then tragically you lost the book you and your children adored in that terrible fire. Among all of the things that fire destroyed was this link to your early childhood memories. So glad your daughter gifted you with the book, which is a portal into a special time in your life.

  6. Dave Ventre says:

    A lovely recollection. Is it possible to contact John and have him sign the new book?

    • Risa Nye says:

      Dave, I just tried to find him in the usual ways, but it turns out he has a rather common name. I wouldn’t know how to start figuring out if some old guy was my childhood pal! Thanks for your kind words.

  7. Oh Risa, what a beautifully written and wonderful story about childhood innocence and friendship and about all the things lost and found in life.
    Thanx for sharing it!

  8. Khati Hendry says:

    This was a tender and moving story. I’m sure that writing about it brought back lots of memories. So sorry to hear about losing your home (and book!) in the 1991 fire–this year is of course the thirtieth anniversary of that terrible time. Fortunately we were over on Lincoln Avenue in Oakland and the fire didn’t get that far, but we could see it, and I have feared the “fire wind” ever since.

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