Steal Back the Mona Lisa!
Part James Bond, part Inspector Gadget, the boy hero of McCarthy's (Aliens Are Coming! ) energetic picture book dreams he foils a plot to steal back the Mona Lisa from two "crooked crooks." With animation-ready artwork and a plot that zooms from one harrowing scene to the next, the book brims with tongue-in-cheek humor. A narrator with a delivery as droll as the voice-overs in Rocky and Bullwinkle tells of the two hapless cartoon villains. sporting striped beanies and black masks, who shadow the protagonist. When Jack says, "Ah, this drink is good," the narrator asks, "But is it good?" (a shady figure hides nearby). "No! The juice is poisoned. Jack gets kidnapped and delivered in a truck to a dark, sinister warehouse.... and it gets worse ." Slapstick high jinx abound. When Jack is thrown from a plane going to France, he saves himself by pulling his "insta-blimp cord" and lands in Russia instead. His hat contains enough slippery oil to deflect a mysterious van, and his special agent watch has scissors that allow him to cut a rope and escape from sharks. The copyright information is cleverly incorporated into a faux 1911 newspaper article about a real-life Mona Lisa thief. Although the narrator never explains why the crooks seem more interested in following Jack than in getting on with their plans, there's enough derring-do for plenty of laughs. Ages 4-8. (Oct.)