cover image I Am So Strong

I Am So Strong

Mario Ramos, trans. from the French by Jean Anderson. Gecko Press USA (Lerner, dist.), $16.95 (34p) ISBN 978-0-9582-7877-5

This offering from Belgian author/illustrator Ramos is a single, drawn-out joke, but achieves keeper status with intelligent dialogue and Gallic sophistication. A megalomaniacal wolf strolls through the forest buttonholing fairy tale creatures and asking them to burnish his ego. "My dear, how well that crimson suits you," he says to Little Red Riding Hood. "Tell me, my little strawberry, who's the strongest in the woods?" "Oh, you are, absolutely," she replies alertly. When he's not asking for ego strokes, he's musing to himself as he walks through the forest: " 'Oh, it's so good to be me!' he said, breathing in the scents of oak and mushroom." Ramos's thickly brushed paintings alternate between woodland scenes suggestive of stage scenery and closer shots of the wolf and other creatures against white backdrops, the better to appreciate the comic tension. A small "toad of some sort" breaks the pattern of predictable answers: its mother (a dragon) is the strongest creature in the forest, it says. The wolf's comeuppance is deeply satisfying; the only disappointment is that the book is over so soon. Better read it again. Ages 4%E2%80%93up. (Sept.)