48 pages Ages: 4 to 7
Paperback 978 1 77657 249 6 (NZ$20)
Hardback 978 1 77657 248 9 (NZ$30)
Wellington’s Gecko Press (guided by its resident genius, Julia Marshall) does the English-speaking
The picture book, I Am So Clever, is the last book of the talented Belgian artist and writer, Mario Romas, who died in 2012. It is the sequel to his I Am So Strong (2007) and I Am So Handsome (2007), continuing the egocentric adventures of the Big Bad Wolf.As usual the wolf is in the forest, spreading alarm among its inhabitants. He meets Little Red Riding Hood.
‘But tell me, little raspberry, where are you going with your basket?’ asks the wolf.
The joy in reading these Mario Ramos books is the stylish, suave speaking style he gives to the wolf. Planning to eat both the little girl and her grandmother, the wolf suggests that Little Red Riding Hood should take a lingering walk through the woods. ‘Slow down and listen to the birdsong. And look at all the flowers.’
A series of comic misadventures sees the wolf dressed in Granny’s frilly nightie but locked out of her house. He then has droll encounters with various story characters, who all mistake him for Grandma. A short-sighted huntsman, the three bears, a questing hero, the three little pigs and the seven dwarfs all make the same mistake, irritating the embarrassed wolf.
When he finally confronts Little Red Riding Hood, she responds, ‘Grandma, that wolf mask is fantastic! That big furry head, those rotten teeth, the huge bulging eyes – did you do this just for me?’
Just as in Ramo’s other Wolf books, the unexpected and funny conclusion sees the wolf getting just what he deserves – humiliation.
Ramos’s bold colour illustrations are a delight, with lots of fascinating detail. A rabbit finds the huntsman’s missing spectacles, and the seven dwarfs find it too hot to work.
‘Hi ho! Hi ho! Off to the creek we go.
It’s far too hot to work a lot. Hi ho! Hi ho!’
This book was first published in Paris in 2011 as Le Plus Malin.
The English translation is by Linda Burgess.
Trevor Agnew 26 Jan 2019