Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
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.)
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) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
The old rhyme used for the title is the framework on which Radunsky has built his new visual tale of a race to a surprise ending. Through the keyhole cut through the jacket, cover, and first pages we glimpse the light of a fire at which the small, polka-dot-dressed mouse Mrs. McGuire is pointing. "Where? Where?" asks Mrs. Bear. Mrs. Brown replies "Downtown!" The rhyming questions are traded from mouse to mouse, as the fire is shown through the painted keyhole. Finally, as Mrs. McDavis slides down stairs with a sack of potatoes, the fire appears through a cut-out keyhole again. Turning the page reveals the surprise. The initial setting is an interior done in dark tones: black floor, large brown teddy bear, somber patterned wallpaper. White mice in varied colored dresses catch our attention because of the color contrasts. Computer- generated, somewhat surreal images add to the offbeat fun, enhanced by casual-looking typeface. 2006 (orig. 1971), Harcourt, Ages 2 to 5.
Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 1The pace is rigorous, the rhymes are silly, and the all-female cast is strong as these women track down the cause of smoke and ultimately discover it to be a birthday cake for an octogenarian. The text is adapted from an old American nursery rhyme. The one-line-to-a-page verse keeps the pages turning as readers chase down the fire with Mrs. Kelp, Mrs. Kopp, and Mrs. Orr (an amazon of a woman), among others. Egielski's broadly humored, jam-packed illustrations expand the text thoroughly. He creates each character's rolethe firefighter, the cop, the photographer, the babeto its fullest. From the declaration of "Fire!" by Mrs. McGuire to the fall of the McDavis family, everything is visually on the go with people running, crowds gathering, and cats flying. This book will encourage multiple readings as children choose to rejoin the wild adventure. The abrupt, out-of-sync ending will surprise even seasoned readers, at best into a laugh, at worst into a puzzled frown. They'll probably end up inventing their own wacky rhymes.Martha Topol, Traverse Area District Library, Traverse City, MI
For the third set of illustrations put to Martin's much-revised version of an old rhyme (Ted Schroeder, 1970; Richard Egielski, 1996), Radunsky creates a cast of fuzzy-edged mice in a darkened room, who sound the alarm after spotting flames visible through a door's keyhole. But they discover, once they get the door open, that it comes from a set of birthday candles-arranged on a cake for a party of cats, giving the final tableau a rather ominous flavor. The globby typeface is sometimes hard to read, but readers too young for the humor in Egielski's slapstick version will enjoy the rhyming and the suspense in this simpler one. A die-cut keyhole adds extra interest, though for design reasons it only penetrates the first few pages and the last one. (Picture book. 4-6)
From the Publisher
Punchy poetics [and] lightning pace.—The New York Times Book Review
Slapstick humor and fast-paced action....A five-alarm de-light.—Publishers Weekly
Youngsters will be captivated by the colorful scenes and forceful language.—Kirkus Reviews