cover image Wish You Were Here

Wish You Were Here

Moritz Petz, , illus. by Quentin Gréban, trans. by J. Alison James. . North-South, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-7358-2005-0

The title of an old Rodgers and Hart standard, "Glad to Be Unhappy," aptly describes the mood of this strikingly visualized work. Hedgehog and Mouse have been apart for five days while Hedgehog travels. The fellow collects a seashell at a windswept, wintry-looking beach so Mouse can "hold it to her ear and listen to the sound of the sea. That way, it will almost seem as if she had been here with me." At home, Mouse thinks of Hedgehog even when she's playing hide-and-seek with someone else, and listens to "the song that Hedgehog and I always dance to." Petz's (Mona the Monster Girl ) text may sound sappy, but Greban's (The Dearest Little Mouse in the World ) spectacular watercolors leaven the proceedings. The paintings are by turns austere and voluptuous, evocative and elusive. In one scene that brings to mind Bertolucci, Hedgehog walks intently with a rabbit couple he has met, while three windmills churn on an otherwise barren landscape. The book falters only at the very end, when Petz and Greban stage a missed meeting at the station that smacks of An Affair to Remember that likely won't register with young readers. Otherwise, there's an almost cinematic magic at work as the couple counts down the days until the big reunion. Ages 4-up. (Aug.)