cover image Fire! Fire! Said Mrs. McGuire

Fire! Fire! Said Mrs. McGuire

Bill Martin, Jr., , illus. by Vladimir Radunsky. . Harcourt, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-15-205725-1

Flame-orange light shines through a die-cut keyhole, punched through the cover and several pages of this otherwise uninspired book. A dozen mice, all designated "Mrs." (no Misters are in sight), notice the glowing keyhole from inside a dark, cluttered room. On hearing Mrs. McGuire's title cry of "Fire! Fire!," they assume the worst. " 'Help! Help!' said Mrs. Kelp./ .../ 'Water! Water!' said Mrs. Votter." Radunsky (What Does Peace Feel Like? ) paints the anxious mice against a shadowy blue-on-black wallpaper print, a towering stack of cardboard boxes and a drab evergreen-tinted door. At last, the goggle-eyed, lipsticked mice shove open the door to discover that five cats are throwing a party and that candles are illuminating the keyhole. Strangely, the rodents join the party without sounding a cat-related alarm. Ultimately, these hysterical "Mrs." mice seem miscast, and the scenery is too static and barren. For all the shrieking and rhyming, Radunsky falls short of generating excitement or levity with this 1971 manuscript by the late Martin (Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See? ). Ages 2-5. (May)