cover image Fire! Fire! Said Mrs. McGuire

Fire! Fire! Said Mrs. McGuire

Bill Martin, Jr.. Harcourt Children's Books, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-15-227562-4

The slapstick humor and fast-paced action of this version of an old rhyme begin immediately on the cover: ""Fire! Fire!"" shouts the title as the WXYZ Helicopter news team spots the smoke. In signature rhymed verse, one line per page, Martin supplies the simple dialogue (""`Where? Where?' said Mrs. Bear. `Downtown,' said Mrs. Brown"") while Egielski fills the pages with tumultuous events and a modern-and human-cast of characters. Mrs. Bear is a Carol Channing look-alike wearing an enormous fur hat and coat, and Mrs. Kitty (""What a pity!"") is a bespectacled waif with an apartment filled with cats. Throughout, the women star: Mrs. Kopp (""Near the top!"") is a police officer directing the crowd, and Mrs. Chi (""Let me see!""), a photographer, records the events. At the end of the book, the men and women firefighters find to their surprise that the smoke is caused by the many candles on old Mrs. Wear's birthday cake. From beginning to end, Egielski's rumble-tumble stage business and inventive subplots combine with Martin's comic puns and rhythmic verve to make this picture book a five-alarm de-light. Ages 2-6. (Mar.)