THE MARVELOUS MOUSE MAN

Mary Ann Hoberman, Author, Laura Forman, Illustrator , illus. by Laura Forman. Harcourt/Gulliver $16 (40p) ISBN 978-0-15-201715-6

In a memorable picture-book debut recalling both the golden age of children's illustration and contemporary artists like Jim LaMarche, Forman contributes luminous, finely detailed illustrations to Hoberman's (A House Is a House for Me) sprightly variation on a tried-and-true tale. Achieving an antique effect using pencils and watercolors, the artist portrays a small town of yesteryear whose streets are overrun by a quickly multiplying throng of mice. Young readers will gleefully spot these unwanted visitors in the most unlikely places: peeking out of pockets, perched atop buildings, darting up a pant leg. Lengthy rhyming stanzas (which intermittently address readers as "sir") explain the townfolks' reaction: "I tell you, sir, it was not nice./ This town was soon as warm with mice./ You need not look but once or twice/ To see them frisk and frolic/ Till not a single store or house/ Was uninvaded by a mouse/ And every husband and his spouse/ Was rendered melancholic." Enter the Pied Piper–like savior, shown as a gangly old gent wearing a stovepipe hat and crimson cape, who entices the mice to follow him—not with music but with an odor of intrinsic appeal to the persistent pests: "Some said it smelled of Brie from France,/ While others swore 'twas Liederkranz/ Or Gorgonzola, ripe, perchance,/ Or Stilton, Swiss, or Edam." Hoberman's agile and comical verse cleverly contorts a classic and adds a second star: an appealing young heroine. Yet it is Forman's art, at once inventive and nostalgic, that makes this a book to savor. Ages 5-8. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 03/18/2002
Release date: 04/01/2002
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