Lore Segal, Author, Sergio Ruzzier, Illustrator , illus. by Sergio Ruzzier. FSG/Foster $16 (40p) ISBN 978-0-374-38417-3

Segal (Morris the Artist ) again proves she's in tune with a child's mindset. These four short stories (some broken into even shorter chapters) begin in the same, matter-of-fact manner: "Once there was a Mole who lived with his Grandmother Mole in a hole in the forest." An understated tone continues throughout the tales, which portray a loving and, at times, slightly strained relationship between the matriarch and the young, bespectacled mole (pictured with his circular, red-rimmed glasses tied behind his head). Mole experiences many touchpoints of the preschool set, from a reluctance to dress for the weather to his continuous, "Why?" But an exasperated Grandmother Mole, who often sighs "a sigh Mole couldn't miss," always has a reassuring hug or kiss. Children will relate to the predicaments and persistence of Mole, as when he continuously shouts "Aoooooooo " until Grandmother Mole guesses his need for attention. Parents should appreciate the ironic humor that most likely will be lost on the younger crowd; e.g., after bundling Mole up to play in the snow, it is Grandmother Mole who catches a cold, declaring, "I told you not to go out in the wind and snow!" Ruzzier's (The Little Giant , reviewed above) vignettes in muted hues complement the narrative with subtle nuances like crayon scribblings on Mole's wall, a mole-nosed butterfly and surreal outdoor images that simultaneously recall desert and ocean-floor landscapes. Despite its comic subtlety and some sophisticated language (ants vinaigrette, serviettes), this book works to entertain all levels. Ages 4-8. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 03/22/2004
Release date: 04/01/2004
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