Jeanne Willis. Atheneum Books, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-4169-1490-7
From longtime collaborators Willis and Ross (Tadpole's Promise; I Hate School) comes a story about a concerned mother mouse, a misunderstood gorilla and a slightly scary global chase. Searching for her ""very, very small"" baby who has gone missing, a mother mouse runs right into a hulking gorilla (Ross underscores the beast's Kong-like menace by giving him a blood-red mouth, and its coat brings to mind a particularly sinister thundercloud). Convinced she's being sized up for a snack, the mouse flees, squealing, ""Help! Help! He'll catch me!/ He'll squash me and scratch me,/ He'll mince me and mash me,/ And crunch me up for lunch!"" This becomes the book's refrain and helps soften the fear factor as the gorilla doggedly pursues the mouse all over the world, which Ross chronicles with wry humor and cinematic gusto. In one scene, the gorilla can be spotted on the horizon of the ocean, paddling his way to Australia; a few pages later, the gorilla catches up to the mouse on the ice floes of the Arctic, where he strikes a pose worthy of Frankenstein. Just as the mouse prepares herself for a gruesome end, the gorilla surprises her with a different finale. A lot of kids will see the punch line coming, but they'll still enjoy seeing it play out, especially with Ross's expansive pastels building the comic tension. Ages 4-8.
Reviewed on: 05/08/2006