Not-very-oldies and still-very-goodies...recommendations from 1999 to 2005!
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Picture Books

Show Way
Show Way
by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Hudson Talbott
published by Putnam

When Soonie's Great-Grandma was seven, she was sold away from her Ma and Pa with nothing but a piece of muslin, two needles, and thread dyed bright red with berries from the Chokeberry tree. These steps taken away from her parents are the first in a long path through the author's ancestry; a path of women who through their sewing and quilting can create a "Show Way," or map to freedom, a quilted code carrying them through slavery and the civil rights era, along to the present day where the author has learned to use words to create a "Show Way" to a better day. The introduction to each grandmother when she was seven serves as a refrain and gives the young reader an immediate and sympathetic point of reference. Talbott's rich and evocative illustrations create a visual line like a seam through the story, a path of quilt squares carrying each grandmother through time and through the constellations that guide them and promise a better future. Surely one of the most hopeful and affecting books on black history, this tour de force promises all children a powerful Show Way, using whatever it is that they can do. (6 and up)

Miss Suzy
by Miriam Young, illustrated by Arnold Lobel
published by Purple House Press

Dear Miss Suzy Squirrel is displaced when her drey is invaded by a band of baddies, forcing her to take up residence in an attic dollhouse. A troop of toy soldiers come to her rescue, with love and valor rescinding what is hers. Unassuming at first glance, drama, emotional depth and one heck of a good plot is packed into one of the most stirring children's books ever, now reissued in time for a 40th anniversary. I still remember my grandmother reading this one aloud to me, and now its your turn to read it aloud to your goggle-eyed crowd. In squirrel-talk: you'd have to be nuts not to have this in your collection. (5 and up)

Henry and the Buccaneer Bunnies
by Carolyn Crimi, illustrated by John Manders
published by Candlewick

Barnacle Black Ear, the baddest bunny brute of all time, has a son who, disappointingly, is a bookworm and not a buccaneer. More interested in books than timber-shivering or plank-walking, Henry is the laughingstock of the swarthy crew. But when no one heeds his red-sky-at-morning warning and the ship is lost, it is Henry's book-smarts that save the day. Part of the author's strength is that her subtle turn of phrase and gentle punnery never sacrifices her story for a laugh, and as a result, she makes anyone who reads her titles aloud come off as a natural comic genius. Her trademark humor is perfectly matched by Mander's visual jokes (note Calico Jack Rabbit's cabbage tattoo marked with the name "Beatrix") and broad, bouncy line. But besides being a wildly funny book with plenty of occasion to utilize a pirate voice, this is a tribute to the worth of books and the people who read them, clearly every bit as valuable as pieces of eight. (6 and up)

Fancy Nancy
byJane O'Connor, Robin Preiss Glasser
published by HarperCollins

Nancy loves the color fuschia, lace-trimmed socks, tiaras, French accents and frilly toothpicks. In short, this little sister is f-a-n-c-y FANCY, and she's generously willing to share her expertise in private lessons. After a creative makeover that does Queer Eye proud, her blasé family's looking better by the minute! But when an embarassing mishap occurs involving spilled parfaits in a restaurant, Fancy Nancy may need some plain old love. Strong character voice puts Nancy at the tea-party table with characters like Eloise and Olivia. Sporting a cover appropriately bedeckled in pink glitter and curly-swirly illustrations brimming with accessories (of course), this book is as delightful as a cupcake with extra sprinkles and a must-must-must for your favorite fancy girl, dahhhling! (5 and up)

And Tango Makes Three
by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, illustrated by Henry Cole
published by Simon and Schuster

Roy and Silo walked together. And sang to each other. And built a nest together. And wound their necks around each other. But there was one thing Roy and Silo couldn't do together. With the help of a sympathetic zookeeper, these penguin partners were able to become a family, hatching Tango (because, after all, it takes two to tango!). Based on the true story of the first penguin in the Central Park Zoo to have two daddies, this refreshing celebration of the diversity of families in nature is a perfect blend of storytelling, science and sentimentality. Expressive, understated illustrations clearly done from real-life sketches capture the penguins' frustrations and joys. An outstanding read-aloud which every teacher can feel comfortable in sharing to cultivate tolerance, and through which alternative families will feel affirmed. Nice in combination with Todd Parr's The Family Book. (5 and up)

Bad Kitty
byNick Bruel
published by Roaring Brook

Oh dear, did Mommy forget to buy food for the kitty? No worries, there should be plenty of things in the cupboard for kitty to eat. asparagus, perhaps? Fennel? Rhubarb? An alphabet of food that sends kitty gagging on hairballs also sends him into an alphabet of bad behavior involving curtains, neckties and a vet's arm. Don't worry, a trip to the store for more suitable cuisine, worthy of Wacky Packages and a child's taste (lizard lasagne or turtle turnovers, anyone?) should send kitty into a redemptive fervor. That's four, count 'em, four hilarious alphabets in one book. Zany, never dull, and full of a suprising amount of fresh vocabulary and a chance for letter recognition, this book is a hoot for lively, irreverent preschoolers and their older siblings. It reads like catnip for fans of all things feline, but cat-haters can enjoy it, too, as kitty's true nature is revealed. (4 and up)

Traction Man is Here!
byMini Grey
published by Knopf

Traction man dons his super Sub-Aqua suit, Flourescent Flippers and Infra-Red Mask to do some deeps-ea diving in the kithen sink! Traction Mans sports his Latex Space Suit and Crash Helmet and zooms in his Jet-Powered Sneaker to rescue the farm animals being attacked by the Evil Pillows! Traction Man wears his Deep-Sea Diving Suit, Brass Helmet and Metal Shoes to save his companion Scrubbing Brush from the Mysterious Toes at the bottom of the tub! But when well-meaning Granny knits Traction Man a knitted green romper and matching bonnet, is there any adventure he can possibly accomplish wearing such style-cramping couture? This beautifully illustrated and nuanced book is pitch-perfect at capturing both the energy and imagination of a child at play. Traction Man! Our hero! (4 and up)

Little Pea
by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Jen Corace
published by Chronicle

"If you want to grow up and be a big, strong pea, you have to eat your candy," Papa Pea would say. "If you don't finish your candy then you can't have dessert," Mama Pea would say. But yuck! Little Pea doesn't like candy! Can he make it through dinner to dessert…and a surprise ending? The simplest illustrations against a white backdrop manage brilliantly to convey color, movement and family coziness, and you don't have to be a mealtime fussbudget to appreciate the clever reversals in this, one of the dearest, darlingest books of the season. Peas have never looked so appetizing. (3 and up)
Also of interest:
Eat Your Peas, Ivy Louise! by Leo Landry (Houghton Mifflin)
The Pea Blossom retold by Amy Lowry Poole (Holiday House)
These three together make for a wonderful thematic storytime.

Carolinda Clatter
by Mordicai Gerstein
published by Roaring Brook

A giant's unrequited love with the moon causes him to cry himself to sleep. "After a hundred years, grass grew all over him. After a thousand years, his eyes became two ponds. His tears became two waterfalls. His beard and the hair on his head became forests." The town of Pupickton is built on the mountain that looks like a giant, right on his belly, and through the years, the townspeople whisper "Shhhh! You'll wake the giant." This is too tall an order for Carolinda Clatter, who is born noisy and whose clamor ultimately rouses the giant from his sleep. Can this boisterous girl find the song to soothe his broken heart? This book is a delight to read aloud (if you can manage the catch in your throat on the last few pages) with an original plot and pictures that capture all the colors and moods of this magical man and mountain. As always, Gerstein's work captures something deep; not just the lightning bug, but the glow of the lightning bug, not just the tear, but the salt, and in this noisy book is the whisper of things universal: the need to be loved, the need to be ourselves, the need for peace. In the body of work of this gentle giant called Gerstein, this title is one of the great romances of children's literature and is not to be overlooked. (6 and up)

Tiny Tortilla
by Arlene Williams, illustrated by G. Brian Karas
published by Dutton

Juan Carlos is so hungry, but the only thing the old tortilla maker in the plaza has left is a tiny scrap of dough, but she assures him, he shouldnÕt worry. Simply pat the dough and sing, "palma-palma-palmadita," and when the dough on it is light and thin, give it three pats, uno, dos, tres. DonÕt take a bite until it is done! If Juan Carlos can follow this advice, he will have the most unusual day of his life. This book is a storytime treasure, with plenty of opportunities for audience participation and magical results with each repetition of the old tortilla ladyÕs spell. The sketchy, sunburned illustrations are just right for the Southwestern setting, and just like the tiny tortilla, your affection for this folkloric telling will grow and grow by the storyÕs end. Be sure to have some tortillas on hand for a storytime snack to follow, and see if the spell really works! (5 and up)

The Gift of Nothing
by Patrick McDonnell
published by Little, Brown

What do you get a friend who has everything? Nothing, of course. But when Mooch tries to shop for it, he finds it surprisingly difficult. And when, after careful thought, he manages to package it, will Earl receive it in the spirit in which it was given? Spare, sketchy cartoons perfectly complement the theme of sufficiency of the gifts we have in each other, and the deep idea at the heart of this book is told simply enough that it will help children see that whatever they have to give really is enough. With Zen undertones and comic overtones, this endearing, provocative tale about a dog, a cat and a whole lot of everything worth having will make you add Nothing to the very top of your wish list. (All ages)

The Wheels on the Race Car
by Alexander Zane, illustrated by James Warhola
published by Orchard

Finally, a perfect song to go along with little boys lining up and racing their toy matchbox cars. To be sung to the tune of "The Wheels on the Bus," wild animals careen around the track in some sort of Wild-Kingdom-meets-Nascar event that will leave an enthiusiastic audience crowing for their car of choice, when they aren't busy singing along and acting out the accompanying hand-motions for each verse cleverly depicted on the endpapers. Vroom-vroom-vroom to the boostore to get this great car book with zero percent financing. (4 and up)

Beetle McGrady Eats Bugs!
by Megan McDonald, illustrated by Jane Manning
published by Greenwillow

Beetle McGrady dreams of being a real explorer, a true pioneer, but where to begin? When an ant wanders across the food pyramid that Table 6 is working on, Beetle is inspired to break new ground by creating a brand new food group, but shsÕs not quite sure if her appetite for adventure matches her appetite for bugs. Thanks to a creative culinary class visitor, the opportunity presents itself for crunching on a creepy crawly, and maybe even connecting with the wider world. This much more modern picture book addendum to Thomas Rockwell's classic novel How to Eat Fried Worms is drawn in stylized, angular spreads. The text is especially well-written, fun to read aloud and features a heroine with a special fearlessness that marks a new breed of little girl. Be sure to check out Beetle's "Tips for Eating Bugs" on the endpapers. (6 and up)

Hurry and the Monarch
by Antoine O Flatharta, illustratred by Meilo So
published by Knopf

In the course of a migration down to Mexico, a monarch butterfly lights in a garden where a meandering tortoise wonders at his new friendÕs flighty pace. When the monarch makes her return trip, she inadvertently leaves a great gift behind. "What do you think [the world] is like?" asks the butterfly. "I imagine," says Hurry slowly, "I imagine that its like my garden. A place full of astonishing things." The story of the mighty monarch migration and the life cycle is told with remarkable delicacy, and the juxtaposition of the ephemeral timetable of the butterfly to the long lifeline of the tortoise is powerful and profound. The storytelling is symphonic in its grace, and the lines of So's watercolors are breathtaking, truly the embodiment of the potential of her medium; you can see each delicate step of the butterfly's nimble foot and the wrinkle beneath the tortoise's wise eye. No one who reads this book will doubt that the world does indeed seem a place full of astonishing things. A must for fans of E.B. White's Charlotte's Web. ThatÕs everybody, isn't it? (5 and up)

Bubba and Beau, Best Friends
by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by Arthur Howard
published by Harcourt

Human baby Bubba and and hound dog puppy Beau share a lot of things. They share the same birthday. They share the same dislike of baths. And they share a love of the pink blankie with the cottony-soft touch and snappity snap sound and smelly smell. But most of all, they share a friendship. If you have never heard of Bubba and Beau, sister, this is your lucky day. When it comes to books about friendship, strong characterizations and a slight southern twang (check out the Texas flag on Big Bubba's pick-up truck) help these sunny episodes to truly stand out. The loose illustrations are adorable with an attitude. Older children too will be asking for more; luckily, there are several in the series, so your whole family can plan a nice long trip to Bubbaville. Pack your funny bone. (4 and up)

Big Sister, Little Sister
by LeUyen Pham
published by Hyperion

Big sister likes to try on lipstick and act older. Little sister canÕt wear lipstick and will never be older. Big sister tells all the good stories, but little sister gets to listen! The pros and cons of family placement is played out in a most intimate and loving way, with just the right amount of sisterly sass. PhamÕs lively line, strong characterizations and the limited palette are all done with all the panache of Ian Falconer (Olivia) or Hilary Knight (Eloise), but when it comes to charm, thatÕs all her own. What started out as a gift to Pham's real sister has resulted in a fine example of what a great picture book should look like, and a gift to us all. (5 and up)

by Marc Tauss
published by Scholastic

Maleek, like every good superhero, keeps his identity a secret, but when the town is in trouble, he springs into action! With the help of robot assistant Marvyn, Maleek manages to reclaim his city's lost parks. Endpapers reveal the inner fantasies of an inventive young comic book readerÉis the story true, or was it all in his imagination? There is no shortage of imagination in Marc Tauss, who is sure to inspire the same in his young readers through detailed, cinematic, black-and-white scenes that include homemade gadgets and robots created in 3D by the artist. Original in technique, mind-blowing in execution, it is safe to call him the Chris Van Allsburg of Photoshop. Boys will flock to this one faster than a speeding bullet. (6 and up)

Bess and Bella
byIrene Haas
published by McElderberry Books

The timeless talent that brought us The Maggie B. shares the wintry tale of a little girl delivered from loneliness from a funny little bird who falls from the sky, bearing a suitcase full of magical things. Though we are never quite sure if Bella is real or imaginary, she sure knows how to liven up the long winter days, and readers will be warmed by her adventures of banjo-playing hounds, firefighters, and magic hats. When the ice melts, though, a new friend awaits Bess, and Bella is ready to take flight. Haas has tuned in pitch-perfectly to a child's sense of rescue and possibility, and the smallish, square frames of snowy illustrations can only be described as precious. Finding this book was like finding the soft and flawless feather of a sparrow…Bella, perhaps? (4 and up)

Chicks and Salsa
by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Paulette Bogan
published by Bloomsbury

Fans of Doreen Cronin's Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type will find a new cock of the walk in this story of a farmyard looking for a little culinary variety, and finding it through Mexican cuisine. Now, where the ducks got the guacamole, the chickens got the tortilla chips and the bull snared the the sombrero remains a mystery, but you'll be glad they did! When the cuisine proves irresistable, the farmer and his wife may have to get in on the fiesta. This slightly irreverant book about eating outside the box (or the henhouse or pen, whatever the case may be) has pictures as colorful as a broken pinata, and will whet many young readers' appetites for trying new cuisines. Recipes included, but you may want to have many more international cookbooks on hand! (5 and up)

Papa, Do You Love Me?
by Barbara M. Joose, illustrated by Barbara Lavallee
published by Chronicle

This much-awaited companion to the bestselling Mama, Do You Love Me? takes place on the Serengeti Plains in the land of the Maasai, where a compassionate father reassures his little boy that he loves his son like the elder loves his stories, he will love him as long as the hippopotamus wallows in the mud, and that he loves him so unconditionally that even if the birthright cow was lost on his little boy's watch, he would still find a place in his father's heart. This story is built on these tender, demonstrative exchanges between the father and son, and is told with a special reverence for its setting and culture (and includes helpful notes about the Maasai in the back). What sets this book apart from the sea of other "mommy-daddy-love-me" books is the global perspective, that even though people may be far away and live very differently than we do here in the United States, a parentÕs love for a child is universal and precious and respecting that is part of creating peace. (4 and up)

Jitterbug Jam
by Barbara Jean Hicks, illustrated by Alexis Deacon
published by Farrar Straus Giroux

The frontpiece illustration of a little monster curled in a bedtime fetal position, clutching a precious dinosaur toy, is absolutely haunting. In page after page, laid out in a sophisticated, varied format clearly informed by the graphic novel genre, the characters seem truly alive, the nuances of the figures at once so familiar and so strange that the artist has successfully accomplished what is the goal of a fantastic fantasy: to create a believable world full of unbelievable things. But no child need fear the monsters in this book, as this horned tyke is terrified of the boy he is convinced lives under his bed, despite the assurances given to him by his loving grandpa, Boo-dad. The writing of this offbeat family story is unusual, suggesting a very colloquial African-American dialect. Fearlessly original, and a work of art from the from bug-covered end-paper to end-paper. Would I be overstating the case if I were to say Deacon may be our next Sendak? I don't think so. (5 and up)

Also of interest is Leonardo the Terrible Monster by the one-in-a-million Mo Willems (Hyperion), who weaves the sad tale of a Leonardo who is frustrated by his monster failures, among them not having 1642 teeth like Tony ("not all teeth shown," Willems points out in fairness). When Leonardo finally locates the biggest scaredy cat in the world, he can't wait to "scare the tuna salad out of him," but the confrontation is met with mixed results, leading Leonardo to decide that instead of being a terrible monster, he would become a wonderful friend. Likewise, Willem's wit makes him a friend to young readers everywhere; he is a reliable picture book entertainer with an inimitable sense of humor. His sparse, deceptively simple style continues to show a mastery of mood, space and color and an appreciation for the modern child's taste for mix of vintage classic snappiness and contemporary savvy. A worthy cousin of Mayer's classic There's a Nightmare in My Closet. (4 and up)

Carmine: A Little More Red
by Melissa Sweet
published by Houghton Mifflin

Carmine has a special relationship with her granny (who taught her to read using alphabet soup) so dashes away at once when invited to her house for lunch, pausing only to paint a picture ("It may seem farfetched to think that any painting can be improved by adding a little more red, but Carmine believes it to be true"). Meanwhile, a wolf gets wind of Granny's menu made more succulent by the addition of bones. A subtext of Carmine's dog facing his fears about confronting his crass canine cousin adds suspense, and through it all is a sophisticated alphabet book highlighting vocabulary from context in alphabetical order (knoll, lurking and mimic comprising the list for k, l and m, and quiver, reckoned, surreal provide for q, r and s). Bright, loose watercolors by this up and coming talent make every page feel like it might have fallen out of Carmine's own sketchbook. This smart, creative, multilayered story will satisfy the parents who bemoan the oversimplification of picture books from their primary prodigies, and will also delight and inspire teachers of language arts. There is even a recipe for Granny's alphabet soup (bones are optional). When it comes to fairy tale re-tellings, this one is definitely a standout lady in red. (6 and up)

Dougal the Garbage Dump Bear
by Matt Dray
published by Kane Miller

A bear named Dougal ends up at the dump, but is soon rescued by the sympathetic "dragon driver," the man who runs the bulldozer. Soon Dougal runs into other stuffed toys who share the same fate, and a very motley circle begins to grow. When the boss finds out that the men have collected a menagerie, it is time for the driver to find a permanent home for them, and its better than they could have imagined. This book, written by an Australian man who really did work at the dump, employs a very engaging scrapbook style of real snapshot photos that tell the story of Dougal and his friends that is sure to inspire a similar storytelling technique for its more creative readers. Though the writing veers from its path in places and the story's summation might be considered pat, the high note that is plucked throughout these pages calls to children again and again. I imagine that if Corduroy and The Velveteen Rabbit had a book club, this would be on the list.(6 and up)

Zen Shorts
by John Muth
published by Scholastic

One day, a generously-sized panda named Stillwater speaking in a "slight Panda accent" shows up at the door of three children, befriending them and sharing with them stories passed along to him from his "Uncle Ry." In fact, the Panda is sharing with them three zen koans, which are simple fables or parables that in fact have been rooted in Chinese and Japanese culture for centuries. Like a mellow, behemoth Cat in the Hat, children will hope that someday they will open their door to such a guest. The retellings are illustrated using a sort of opposite Wizard of Oz technique: when he shares a tale, they become a sketchy brush-painted blue, black and white, and when it is the children's everyday life, we return to realistic full-spectrum watercolors. "Uncle Ry" is inspired by the poet Ryokan Taigu, one of JapanÕs most popular poets, and the Panda is named for the great teacher Sengai Gibbon. The stories are a bit watered down from their original sources (children eight and up will be able to enjoy a broader array in their more original forms in Zen Flesh, Zen Bones), but this book definitely serves as a valuable introduction for the youngest reflective reader. Muth, always a gifted artist, is at the top of his form and will surely give award committees plenty to meditate over. (5 and up)

Mocking Birdies
by Annette Simon
published by Simply Read Books

A red bird and a blue bird sharing the same telephone lines seek to find harmony in this clever poetic piece. "Be a good egg." "Be a good egg." "Stop copying me!" "Stop copying me!" When they find the way out of their cacophonous chatter, are they able to pick up the melody when joined by a purple bird and two cats? Striking geometric designs against a white background boldly accent the plucky plot. Pick red lines or blue lines to read aloud, and you can take turns with your own emergent reader (great for big kids to read to little kids, too); even if you canÕt sing, the writing will sound like jazzy skit-skatting. These little song birds hit a picture book high-note on every page, and is sure to have your own chickadees calling out, "Read it again! Read it again!" (3 and up)

School Lunch
byTrue Kelley
published by Holiday House

When the health-conscious school lunch lady Harriet takes a much-needed vacation, its mighty hard to fill her shoes, or her kitchen. Told mostly in letters between the suffering school and Harriet swinging in her tropical hammock, we see the fry cook who douses everything in salt and grease, the French chef whose flambés set off fire alarms, a summer camp counselor who serves up a few too many s'mores, a witch with culinary mischief brewing, and finally, the principal must resort to Chinese take-out. Wish you were here, Harriet! Accented with explosive cartoon illustrations, this-laugh-out-loud story is a delicious tribute to one of school's unsung heros. (6 and up)

Author Day for Room 3T
by Robin Pulver, illustrated by Chuck Richards
published by Clarion

Room 3T is all a-bubble over the arrival of a real live author, Harry Bookman. They have read all of his books, play-acted his scenes, thought out serious questions and even made a welcome banner. The expectations of the glamorous author lifestyle are high. "If you see someone who looks new and different, you can be sure its the author," the children are advised. The author exceeds all expectations…exceot for a bad case of laryngitis, which the author compensates for through some beastly behavior. But is it the author, or an escaped chimpanzee filling the role? When the real author arrives, it will be a tough act to follow. The tips for hosting a successful author visit on the last page are some serious help, containing need-to-know info for every teacher, but the rest of the story is unbridled silliness. The illustrations are as colorful, slick and shiny as a bouquet of balloons, and action-packed on every page, matching the madcap tomfoolery of the text. (6 and up)

Also of interest is Kindergarten Rocks! by Katie Davis (Harcourt). Dexter can't wait for kindergarten! He's practically an expert; after all, his big sister told him all about it. So Dexter doesn't need any comfort and consolation. Nope. Not one bit. His stuffed dog Rufus, on the other hand…bouyant pictures belies the bravado of the text in this perfect pick for first-time school-goers that hones in on their very real concerns. This book uses humor and sensitivity to reassure children that school is a place that has many wonderful surprises waiting for them, as well as many grown-ups waiting to lend a hand. There will be no doubt upon the closing of this book that kindergarten really does rock! (See, Rufus? There was nothing to worry about). Also be sure to check out the author's incredible website which includes great tips for the author-initiated "Get Ready for Kindergarten Month" that are handy all year 'round. (4 and up)

Kibitzers and Fools: Tales my Zayda Told Me
bySimms Taback
published by Viking

So, you want a little Jewish wisdom? A little Yiddish wit? A little company, maybe? Well, you've come to the right place. From the colorful, cartoonish stylings of a Caldecott winner, we've got the whole mishpokhe here, kibbitzing in the German dialect of our great grandparents via a baker's dozen of tales, endpapers featuring idiomatic expressions and a whole glossary at the end (what, you don't want to be a cheapskate, do you?). Here we have poor Rabinovitz trying to make a sign with too many editors, a couple of shmendricks having a lively philisophical discussion about the buttering of bread, and little Yankel trying to field the question of "what is life?" If life by any chance is a good book, you're in luck, because this one is nothing you should sneeze at. (6 and up)

Ready or Not, Dawdle Duckling
by Toni Buzzeo, illustrated by Margaret Spengler
published by Dial

Can any child turn down a spirited game of hide-and-seek? Mama Duck is willing to play, and one-two-three little ducklings know what to do…but the fourth little duckling needs the help of some friends. Spare, well chosen text and sparkling, sunny-day artwork make this a particularly winning preschool pick, though all of the winsome "Dawdle" stories have a finger on the pulse of preschool energy and fun. Fans of Jane Simmons' Come Along Daisy will find a new feathered friend in Buzzeo's book, and children will chuckle at Dawdle's choices for perfect hiding places. Parents will recognize their own little dawdlers endearingly portrayed in these pages, and will be glad to take the time to read this again and again. (3 and up)

Momma, Will You?
by Dori Chaconas, illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher
published by Viking

"Momma, will you milk the cow? Yes or no or maybe? We would like some sweet milk now. Milk for me and baby." All around the farmhouse, this helpful little boy has lots of suggestions of what to do for the new arrival, each answered in the same lilting rhythm by an attentive mother. Each facing page has an animal silhouette against a bold colored background, which young children can use for cues to join in or for guessing what animals come next. Altogether cozy from cover to cover, the gentle winding-down of the story will make it a perennial bedtime favorite for both parents and children. (5 and up)
Other delightful mommy-loves-baby books:
Angel Coming by Heather Henson, illustrated by Susan Gaber (Atheneum) (An "angel" comes down from the hills of Kentucky in the form of a new baby delivered by a home birth. You can practically smell that mountain air in these flowing, blowing pictures!)
Home to Me, Home to You by Jennifer Ericsson, illustrated by Ashley Wolff (Little, Brown) (A child is remembered along every step of a mother's business trip; realistic, warm and reassuring.)
Because of You by B.G. Hennessy, illustrated by Hiroe Nakata (Candlewick) (Reads like a love letter from parent to child, containing all the ways the world is better because of that child is in it.)

Lizzie Nonsense
by Jan Ormerod
published by Clarion

A little girl in the isolation of the Australian bush must entertain herself while waiting for her father to return. She does so with aplomb thanks to what her pragmatic mother calls "Lizzie Nonsense," or her ability to see things through her imagination, whether a bathing baby is afloat on a boat in a big wide sea, a bending branch serves as gallant steed worthy of a queen, or turnips are turned into peaches and teacakes. When father's team of horses breaks through the woods, though, the reality is every bit as beautiful as Lizzie's sweetest nonsense. The paintings throughout are breathtaking, capturing very intimate family moments in dappled light and varied texture to the point that it is truly like looking through a window of time at the romance of a family. With more than fifty books published, this one in particular is a hallmark in the career of a remarkable talent. Any study of pioneer history should include this title, so children may see that there were frontier experiences in other countries as well; be sure to point out the animals and details throughout that are uniquely Australian. (5 and up)

Baby Brains
by Simon James
published by Candlewick

Even before Baby Brains was born, his parents were on the ball, reading aloud and playing music for the tyke in utero. Was it any surprise that within a few days, Baby Brains is reading the newspaper, fixing the car, and working as a doctor in a local hospital. It is not until Baby Brains is sent on a mission into outer space and ground control asks him how he feels on this special occasion, he breaks down and blubbers, "I want my mommy!" DonÕt worry, Baby Brains, youÕll soon be back to earth for a warm bath, a tickle and a cuddle, loved for exactly who you are instead of all you do. Besides being a bouncing bundle of laughter, this book is a laudable commentary on the overachieving culture we risk imposing on children. DonÕt waste this wry and wise fable on wee ones alone; share it in a gift basket at a baby shower, and teachers in push-push districts should not hesitate to read it aloud at parent Open House. Don't miss the sequel, Baby Brains Superstar, in which it takes more than a little stage fright to squelch baby's musical talent. (4 and up)

Kamishibai Man
by Allen Say
published by Houghton Mifflin

Kamishibai, or "paper theater," is an art form popularized during an economic depression in Japan during the 1930's. The kamishibai storyteller would be surrounded by children, eager to hear his tales and see the hand-painted illustrations, and buy the candies from his cart. But with the advent of the television, the unique form of street performance loses its audience. What's an old kamishibai man to do? This touching story chronicles what happens when an artist once celebrated ventures out into a modern, urban world, filled with traffic and television, for a final performance. Will he find his audience once more? Sophisticated ideas of aging and cultural change make this ideal for discussion with older children, and young artists may also enjoy trying to create their own kamishibai.

by Norman Messenger
published by Candlewick

Can you imagine a clock without hands? A horse with tiger stripes? A camel made of clouds? A door that leads to anywhere? It's easy to imagine with this book full of flaps and fold-outs, turning wheels, and pictures that require you to turn the book upside-down. Novel and imaginative and oh-so-surreal, choose this one for your young Salvador Dali. (5 and up)
Also of interest for imaginative minds:
Imagine a Day and Imagine a Night , both by Sarah Thompson, illustrated by Rob Gonsalves (Atheneum) (Great new choice for fans of Chris Van Allsburg's classic the Mysteries of Harris Burdick)
Once Upon a Cloud by Rob D. Walker, illustrated by Matt Mahurin (Scholastic).

by Mary Jane and Herm Auch
published by Holiday House

Chickerella is delighted when her father decides to remarry, but the stepmotherturns out ton be a bad egg and Chickerella's dressmaking skills are used and abused by her new family Luckily, her Fairy Goosemother steps in when she needs help getting to the Fowl Ball, and when Chickerella lays a glass egg at the steps of the castle, the prince beats a fast path to the coop of our feathered friend. With the support of rooster royalty, she is able to starts her own fashion line as a finale, and wait until you see these gowns! This fine feathered story is full of punny fun, and the illustrations, photographs of posed dolls superimposed on digital backgrounds, verge on the psychedelic and will rate an eye-popping "wow" with your favorite chick. (4 and up)
Also of interest on the more traditional end of happily-ever-after: the pink pop-up perfection that is Matthew Reinhart's Cinderella (published by Little Simon, 4 and up, wait until you see the coach and dress come off the page as if a magic wand really was waved!) and the Louis XIV elegance of Barbara McClintock's Cinderella (Scholastic, 6 and up) looks engraved and gold-gilded. Both end cheerfully; if you want the stepsister's heels cut off or eyes poked out, you'll have to go in for the original.

Mama Goose : A Latino Nursery Treasury
by F. Isabel Campoy and Alma Flor Ada, illustrated by Maribel Suarez
published by Hyperion

Mostly Mexican, this compendium of bilingually-presented birthday songs, riddle, tall-tales, finger plays, jump-rope rhymes, songs and nursery rhymes will add fresh material to both laptimes and storytimes. While the content of the Spanish-language originals are sometimes sacrificed in translation in order to keep the rhythm and rhyme, what results is a treasury of pleasant pieces that stand on their own in each language. Generous, brightly-colored illustrations make page-turning a delight. A wonderful choice for a new baby gift, this book will be enjoyed throughout a child's primary years.(birth and up)

Mercy Watson to the Rescue
by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Chris Van Dusen
published by Candlewick

Mercy Watson Mercy Watson is no ordinary pig. She is a porcine wonder, and if you don't believe it, just read the harrowing adventure in which Mercy manages to get the fire department to rescue her doting owners who are nearly falling through the floor while still in bed. Never mind that their precarious predicament was a result of Mercy jumping in between them as they slept. Never mind that Mercy was really in search of her favorite treat, buttered toast, and in this quest caused a diversion that brought the fire department around. All's well that ends well, even the prickly pork-prejudiced neighbor Eugenia will have to agree…or will she? First in a series, this book is arranged in chapters probably to encourage independent reading confidence, but keep in mind it can be read aloud in one storytime sitting. Famous for her award-winning novels, DiCamillo's tight prose and hilarious characterizations transfer to this shorter piece. Van Dusen's shiny, stylized illustrations are plenty pink and possibly perfect. You, too, will toast Mercy Watson at the close of this high-spirited book. (5 and up)

The Happiest Tree: A Yoga Story
by Uma Krishnaswami, illustrated by Ruth Jeyaveeran
published by Lee and Low

Nerves are getting the better of Meena as she prepares for her part in a class production of Little Red Riding Hood. Will she be too clumsy to convincingly play the part of a tree? Luckily, a few yoga classes get her limbs in good order. Cheerfully illustrated, this is a strong story about performance anxiety, and its clever and helpful integration of yoga into the plot is sure to put a new interest center stage. Also, be sure to check out the author's informative web page about Southeast Asia in Children's Literature. Also of interest to young thespians: A Play's the Thing by Aliki (HarperCollins), a classroom drama about the production of "Mary Had a Little Lamb," told in comic-book form. You will want Miss Brilliant for your teacher! (5 and up)

Before You Were Born
retold by by Howard Schwartz, illustrated by Kristina Swarner
published by Roaring Brook

Long ago, the angel Lailah shared all of her secrets with you; as you rested in your mother's womb, she read to you from the book of secrets, and revelaed to you all the beauties of the world, and told you the most marvelous of stories. When the time came for you to be born, Lailah led you out into the world, and she put her finger to your lips, reminding you to keep everything she had taught you a secret. How did you think you got that indentation in your upper lip? A profoundly gentle "pourquoi" legend based in Jewish folklore is lit by art so luminous that light seems to shine off of every page. This slice of picture book paradise is an exceptional new baby gift that will be enjoyed by everyone in the family for years. (birth and up)

Duck for President
by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Betsy Lewin
published by Delacorte

From humble beginnings comes our next contender for executive office. Hoping that running a country will be less work than running a farm, our hero sets his heights high. With careful campaigning, the promising hopeful manages to move up in the ranks, first by challenging Farmer Brown's leadership and then ultimately surviving a ballot recount with the presidency at stake. But is the Oval Office everything it's quacked up to be? There is no debate that the illustrations are daring and delightful, from Duck's flashing of a four-feathered "victory" sign to appearing on a late night talk show playing a saxophone. The inside flap copy reads, ""Some say, if he walks like a duck and talks like a duck, he is a duck. We say, if he walks like a duck and talks like a duck, he will be the next president of the United States of America." Well, it's nice to have options. (5 and up)

Children interesting in more logistical aspects of the upcoming elections will be informed citizens if they read Vote! by Eileen Christelow (Clarion Books). A town's mayoral election serves as a model of the process. the cartoon illustrations with comic-book style dialogue adds energy and interest to the expository text. A helpful glossary, timeline, information about political parties and list of websites are also included. (7 and up)

Mary Was a Little Lamb
by Gloria Rand, illustrated by Ted Rand
published by Henry Holt

Poor little lost lamb on Cranberry island! Luckily, bleeding heart Mrs. Paradise answers her bleats and brings her home, where she is cared for very well. Mary's inquisitive nature leads her beyond the garden fence, into the backyards and schoolyards of neighbors where she creates a nuisance. When Mary shows no interest in returning to her feral flock, the community must come together to figure out what to do. Based on a true story of a lamb on Decatur Island in Washington State, this is a picture book of special warmth. I just love the illustration of Mrs. Paradise maneuvering her bike with the little lamb under one arm, and the expressions of pleasure on the friends as they gather to see their mascot in her new home. You, too, will care what becomes of Mary! (5 and up)

Roger: The Jolly Pirate
by Brett Helquist
published by HarperCollins

Yo ho! Brett Helquist, illustrator of the wildly popular Series of Unfortunate Events has taken a break from his dour doings with Lemony Snicket to deliver us a picture book that is nothing if not jolly. But that's just the problem; what sort of pirate is a jolly one? Where are the snarls, the "arrghs," the scowls? Jolly Roger is regularly routed to the ship's hold by his disgusted mateys, where he will be out of the way while the serious mercenary work gets done. When his ship falls under fire, Roger is busily baking a cake in an effort to get the other pirates to like him, and a little accident explodes him and his pastry into the good graces of his piratical peers. Helquist has given an inventive twist to this action-packed and elegantly illustrated pourquoi tale about why the smiling skull and crossbones that flies above the pirate ship is actually called "the Jolly Roger." Sea chanty included! (5 and up)

Paper Parade
by Sarah Weeks, illustrated by Ed Briant
published by Atheneum

When a little girl has to miss a parade because her baby brother needs a nap, she cuts the marchers out of paper for a game of pretend. Her own dreams that night allow her to join the paper parade she has made, with lovely syncopated rhymes and rhythms accompanying her every step of the way, and leading her to be able to forgive her sibling for any disappointment she may have originally felt. Besides having well-chosen language that succinctly captures the many moods of our little artist, three-dimensional paper figures created for this book took my breath away! I can honestly say that I have never seen illustrations like these before; they have something like the feel of stop-action animation captured on a page, and you will marvel at how a few folds and cuts can bring scenes so very much to life. Vibrant, original, and oh-so-cheerful, this parade should draw crowds! (11 and up)

Blue Bowl Down: An Appalachian Rhyme
by C. M. Millen, illustrated by Holly Meade
published by Candlewick

In many households in Appalachia, it was the tradition to prepare the sourdough for a family's daily bread in the evening, while the oven was still warm from supper. As the dough was "put to bed" to rise, it was only natural that it should become part of a bedtime ritual, inspiring the lullaby that you can read here. Baby helps mommy every step of the way until the day winds down, then, like the bread, baby rises to meet the day in a sunny way! Oversize watercolor and collage illustrations are as generous and homey as the blue bowl itself, and captures a simple country charm. Can't you smell that mountain air? (2 and up)

The Noisy Way to Bed
by Ian Whybrow, illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke
published by Scholastic

"This little boy was oh so tired/and this is what he said:/ "I think I'll go home past the pond,/ because this is the way to…" what? Bed? My goodness, how long have you been a parent? Surely you know it's not as easy as all that! There are ducks and horses and pigs and sheep that have to be met en route to the bedroom, and they may just have to join our tired little guy for a sleepover. Children will love having their best laid rhyme schemes circumvented by animal sounds, and this sweet stroll may well become part of your bedtime routine. (2 and up)

Of course, if it's a dark and stormy night, you might need to read an extra story, in which case you can whip out Noah's Bed by Lis and Jim Coplestone (Frances Lincoln Books). When the thunder and lightning outside of the ark rouses Eber, he has to climb in with Grandpa Noah and Grandma Eber to get cozy. Family beds are squishy enough, but do you have a feeling that there's somebody else taking up room? Could that be an elephant's trunk sticking out from under the comforter? Is that a lion holding a teddy bear? Well, we all need a little extra TLC at bedtime, and this book provides it, along with lots of laughs. (3 and up)

And finally, if your child is still not asleep, break out the big guns with Good Night, Pillow Fight by Sally Cook, illustrated by Laura Cornell (HarperCollins), which pays perfect tribute to the age-old bedtime battle between parents and kids. Look through the windows to see the many rituals: a little before-bed yoga, a tap-dance routine, a guitar serenade, mud-mask or read-aloud, to name a few. Kids need kisses! Kids need hide and seek! Kids need something to drink! Kids need a story or two (or ten) read! And grown-ups need grown-up time, and become increasingly desperate for it as the evening wears on. Don't worry, Mom and Pop, just count the sheep and you'll be counting the blessings that are your sleeping children before long. The illustrations are as jubilant as a jump on the bed; some pages a wild free-for-all with many figures and so much to look at and enjoy, other double-page spreads cleverly depict only a pointed finger ("Go to bed!"), and some scenes are so gentle, like the close up of a child getting a kiss on the cheek and asking in a whisper, "am I asleep?" We might believe that he is, until the last page, when a solitary voice in the cityscape peeps, "pillow fight?" Cooks' pithy exchanges paired with an Cornell's amazing expressive range packs a picture-book punch stronger than any pillow. (4 and up)

The Impudent Rooster
by Sabina I. Rascol, illustrated by Holly Berry
published by Dutton

Misfortune falls hard upon an old man, but when he asks for charity from a neighbor, she cruelly advises him to beat his rooster, maybe then he will get an egg. When the rooster overhears his beloved master wishing his fine feathered friend were indeed a hen so he could lay eggs, he is wounded and takes to the open road. He soon finds a purse full of coins which is promptly plucked from his beak to feed the avarice of a greedy nobleman. This rooster has the impudence to chase down the coach and demand the return of the money. Oh, that a rooster should dare call a rich man a thief! The nobleman goes to great length to erradicate the foul fowl, but the rooster's great pluck helps him to survive every punishment devised. Growing in size with every injustice laid upon him, he ultimately returns with an even greater fortune as well as forgiveness to his proud owner. Children will crow at the nobelman's bad behavior and cheer at the hero's perseverance. This classic Romanian folktale has an Emperor's New Clothes "call 'em like you see 'em" spirit, and the loyalty and fortune-finding of the pet smacks of Puss in Boots, but this valiant read-aloud with vibrant, folksy pictures has an enduring spirit all its own. A perfect storytime choice! (5 and up)

The Sons of the Dragon King
by Ed Young
published by Atheneum

Word around town has it that the king's sons are slacking off, playing in streams and staring into space, so he goes for a walk to see for himself. At first chagrined by his children's choices, the dragon daddy looks more closely at each son and is able to determine a hidden talent and a helpful use for it. Even now, in modern day China, you can find these dragons everyhwhere, still doing their jobs! Beautiful sweeping brush illustrations juxtaposed with delicate paper cuttings add energy and elegance to this fascinating foray into Asian culture and parable about a parent's love and understanding bringing forth the best in a child. (5 and up)

Inside Mouse, Outside Mouse
by Lindsay Barrett George
published by Greenwillow

What's inside mouse doing? What's outside mouse doing? It's easy to compare and contrast using the side by side illustrations of the mice moving around their unique environments that they each home, each page bringing them closer and closer to a friendly meeting. Sparse, well-chosen text is perfect for emergent readers, and the gouache paintings are stunning, bringing out big detail and texture in these little creatures' lives. (3 and up)

Flyaway Katie
by Polly Dunbar
published by Candlewick

Life in the vibrant picture of birds the on the wall seems to much more appealing to Katie, who is having one of those "gray days." In an effort to cheer herself up, she dresses up in colorful costume, getting so carried away that she grows wings and literally joins in the flight of fancy she has been admiring. This amazing bit of dress-up is one of the brightest, most jubilant and most imaginative books of the season. The only way I can really describe it is by saying it is like a big bag of confetti and feathers and glitter. Have you ever seen a kid frown while holding a big bag of confetti and feathers and glitter? Well, there you go. (4 and up)

The Neighborhood Mother Goose
by Nina Crews
published by Greenwillow

Mother Goose has decided to step out of mannered old England and is taking a stroll in Brooklyn, thanks to this citified and prettified photographic jaunt that brings old school into some new territory. Get a load of the "little girl/Who had a little curl/Right in the middle/Of her forehead" giving her hapless Barbie doll a haircut, girls slapping hand for a rousing round of "pat-a-cake" in front of the bakery, and see if your heart doesn't melt when you come across the little boy sleeping across a double-paged spread, one gym shoes off and one gym shoe on. The treatment is inspired and frankly, overdue; what small child doesn't like looking at photos of other children? Crews' style mixes the recognizable with bits of fantasy (camera tricks allow Jack to become the size of a cupcake to jump over a birthday candlestick, and Miss Muffet's spider, though out of scientific proportion, is up to size on a child's perspective). This refreshing and modern collection celebrates the diversity and exuberance of urban living. It is my new favorite Mother Goose compilation, and I have a feeling that it will be your family's, too! Get it while it's pease porridge hot! (birth and up)

The Wishing of Biddy Malone
by Joy Cowley, illustrated by Christopher Denise
published by Philomel

Poor Biddy, so clumsy, with a voice "like a rusty gate in a wild west wind, " and a temper "like a steaming kettle." One day while having one of her fits she marches off into the woods, and happens upon a faerie village. When the fairy loveling asks Biddy Malone to name her wishes, and she knows just what she wants: to "sing as sweetly as a thrush and dance as lightly as a deer," and since wishes always come in threes, she adds her desire for a loving heart. Upon return to her own kind, she finds that her wishes don't seem to be taking, though the memory of the faerie music inspires to keep at her singing and dancing. After time passes, she stomps back into the forest to get those faerie folk to ante up, only to find that her wishes have come true in ways she didn't expect. The acrylic and charcoal illustrations are as mesmerizing as sunlight glinting through green leaves; they glow and play in and out of shadow. One of the most romantic children's books I have ever read, this clever story also celebrates our powers to grant our own wishes, and is a must-read for any child with a dancing heart. (5 and up)

Seadogs: An Epic Ocean Operetta
by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by Mark Seigel
published by Atheneum

X marks the spot for the most original, inspired and rip-roaring adventure of the season! This multi-layered picture book puts the reader in the seats of a grand theater, and when the curtain goes up, you'll be swept away into the squashbuckling adventures aboard the bonny Beauty, as three canine crew members go on one last treasure hunt. The pirates may have absconded the booty, but when these mongrels hit land again, they'll have something worth more than gold. I am pretty sure that the author was possessed by the spirit of Gilbert and/or Sullivan while she was writing. This is really an amazing book told in comic book form with an expressive capability comparable to that of Art Speigelman's masterful Maus, but unlike Maus, this comic is for kids! The text is in libretto form; teachers, copy each poem/song lyric, and let kids in small groups come up with their own original tunes to match! This book really has raised the bar for creativity, and as such, needs to be approached more creatively as a read-aloud. As a read-alone, it is the ticket to make any reluctant reader's heart sing, without dumbing down as so many books that entice reluctant readers do. I guarantee that when the curtain--and the book cover-- closes, your child, like the little dog observing the play, will sigh as if she just sat through the best that Broadway has to offer. (7 and up)

And if you need some more of Wheeler's work to chew on, check out Bubble Gum, Bubble Gum, illustrated by Laura Huliska-Beith (Little, Brown). Who hasn't stepped in a piece of chewed gum before? Only comic marvel Lisa Wheeler could turn this everyday mishap into a storytime masterpiece. A menagerie experiences misadventures as a wad of sticky-icky ensnares them in the middle of the street. It's going to take some pretty quick thinking to get them loose before the big blue truck turns them into tire tracks! An exciting read-aloud that also makes a very nice puppet show; use a pink balloon to stand in for the big bubble at the story's climax. (4 and up)

Plaidypus Lost
by Janet Stevens, illustrated by Susan Stevens Crummel
published by Holiday House

Uh-oh. Where's Platypus? Look left, look right. A young girl's best toy is nowhere in sight! Not once, not twice, not thrice, but four times is the overstuffed platpus made by grandmother from an old flannel shirt misplaced. Readers, like the little girl in the story, will not give up the hunt! Sketchy illustrations on the wide pages are as comfortable and friendly as Plaidypus himself, and scenes show great sensitivity for the everyday life of a child. Readers will recognize the good intentions of the treasure's owner and laugh at the inside joke of the likelihood that the same mistake will be repeated long past the close of the book, and any grown-up who has had to go on a prolonged scavenger hunt for a lost toy will groan in sympathy. You will be inspired to patch together your own family or classroom "Plaidypus" after reading this book; just take care you keep an eye on him! (4 and up)

Superdog: The Heart of a Hero
by Caralyn and Mark Buehner
published by HarperCollins

Little Dexter gets passed over a lot by his poochy pals and teased by the local tomcat. But all that's going to change once his hero suit arrives in the mail! There are many good deeds to be done, but Cleevis is too busy being catty to lend a claw. It's not until Cleevis has his own dark day that he discovers the real meaning of "hero," and Dexter may have discovered a trusty sidekick in the process! Smooth illustrations using an electric palette makes every page seem to glow; Mark Buehner continues his legacy of beautiful books like his inimitable Harvey Potter's Balloon Farm, and has the signature hidden cats, rabbits and dinosaurs hidden in the pictures ("see if you have the superpowers to spot them all!"). Not since Anthony Browne's Willy the Wimp has a little guy dared to dream so big! Smaller themes of working toward a goal and deciding your own future make this book extra super. (5 and up)

Superdogs may be in the eye of the beholder when it comes to Show Dog by Megan McCarthy (published by Viking). Of course, the Hubbles think Ed is the best pet in the world, and enter him in the big dog show where he will compete against the likes of Princess, Mr. Pitt's perfect poodle. While Ed fails to give the judges the oo-la-la, he does manage to steal the show. The wonderful comic voice throughout invites the reader to root for Ed ("[he] has a very good chance of winning, don't you think?") and the visual jokes ("roll over" and "jump through hoops" look an awful lot like "sit") will have children laughing so loud and high that only dogs can hear it. A happy surprise ending is in store…unless you're Mr. Pitt. Pretension gets it's doggy-due here, and fittingly, while this book may not be the fanciest, if you're looking for a new favorite it will do the trick. (5 and up)

Ellington Was Not a Street
by Ntozake Shange, illustrated by Kadir Neslon
published by Simon and Schuster

At first I was put off by the text of this book; it is abridged from Shange's beautiful poem "Mood Indigo," inspired by childhood recollections of African-American innovators who frequented her home. Although I have concerns about whether the content can be fully received by a juvenile audience in the way that was the author's original intent in writing for adults, I have to confess that I have been haunted by the illustrations. Kadir Nelson, who has accomplished miraculous work in books like this year's Coretta Scott King honor winner Thunder Rose, has outdone himself in the graphic interpretation of this poem. Beautiful, sensitive oil paintings prefectly balance the gravity of great men passing through the thresholds of a home and of time itself, while playing upon the ambivalence of a little girl who sees it all as one big party. Look at that child sleeping on one end of the sofa while W.E.B. DuBois and Paul Robeson chat over coffee! And the cover itself, with the girl's mindful stare while holding her beloved '78 record, is the perfect way to lay down the needle on this literary record. Humble understatement tempers this great love of black history that shines throughout the pages. Notes at the end of the book will help parents and teachers point out the personalities passing through. If this isn't Caldecott caliber, I'll eat my Duke Ellington CD. (6 and up)

Amelia's Show- and-Tell Fiesta/Amelia y la Fiesta de "Muestra y Cuenta"
by Mimi Chapra, illustrated by Martha Avilés
published by HarperCollins

Amelia, newly arrived from Cuba, is eager to bring something special to show-and-tell. To impress her new classmates, she wears her beautiful fiesta dress, the one she wore to the carnival parade and that has three ruffled skirts: one rojo, like the color of red-hot peppers, one amarillo, like a sea of yellow corn, and one blanco, circling her ankles like a flock of white gulls. But when everyone else brings something that fits into the show-and-tell basket, Amelia wonders if she has made a mistake. Maybe her understanding teacher and classmates can help Amelia feel right at home, here in America! This colorful bilingual book celebrates all that a newcomer can bring to a community. And if you want to keep partying Spanish- speaking style, try Rebecca Emberley's Piñata, which is also told in two languages and is just bursting with fun trinkets and Hispanic tradition. (both 4 and up)

The Tale of Tales
by Tony Mitton, illustrated by Peter Bailey
published by David Fickling

There are so many wonderful folktales in the world, and in this clever endeavor, the author weaves together many of the stories in the context of one big story: animals trek through a fantasy forest toward the great meeting where they will get to hear the Tale of Tales. To pass the time on their pilgrimage, they tell their own stories, ranging from "Anansi Meets Big Snake" to "Rip Van Winkle" to "The Hobyahs." Besides being entertaining, the nine stories included serve as a crash course in folklore; it will certainly be handy for your youngsters throughout their school careers to recognize the stories presented here. All of the folktales are told in verse, which clearly differentiates it from the narrative, and illustrations for the narrative portions are rendered in silhouettes while the folktales are treated with more detailed line drawings. This unique formalistic approach to traditional tales makes for an especially varied and successful read-aloud experience. While the "Tale of Tales" is the one story that is never revealed, readers can have a good time choosing which one of the collection they think is the best. A handsome book that is perfect for bedtime or circle time. (6 and up)

The Frog House
by Mark Taylor, illustrated by Barbara Garrison
published by Dutton

When a family builds an apple-shaped birdhouse, it turns out to be a perfect home for a little green tree frog! It's inviting shape attracts many visitors who don't come away with a bite to eat, but do exchange greeting with its charming owner, until one day the perfect friend drops by aand stays on. The "collograph" method used in this artwork--layering materials on a cardboard "plate" and then sending it through a press "intaglio" style--creates a unique weathered look full of country charm and a perfect fit for the text. An especially cheerful story that will be the apple of many a teacher's eye. (7 and up)

Too Loud Lily
by Sofie Laguna, illustrated by Kerry Argent
published by Scholastic

Lily the hippo can't seem to do anything quietly. Even when she reads, she laughs out loud! Her friends and family love her but are increasingly exasperated, but Lily finds a mentor when the new music and drama teacher Miss Loopiola comes on the scene (who happens to be another hippo…immediately, Lily has something in common!). Miss Loopiola sees star quality in Lily's volume, and nurtures her through rehearsals in the school play until Lily is on the receiving end of the loudest noise of all: the thunder of applause in a standing ovation. The story is funny and surprisingly touching, and the illustrations are notably expressive, full of all sorts of puckers and pouts that belie the real insight into the emotional life of children hidden under the animal skins. Just look at the progression of expressions as Lily receives a note passed in class from one of her friends and is busted by the teacher to see what I mean! This marvelous book about proclaiming one's special talents loudly to the world deserves a hippo-sized hooray. (5 and up)

The Hungry Coat: A Tale from Turkey
by Demi
published by McElderberry Books

Nasrettin is invited to dinner, but is rudely shunned by guests and host alike. Could it be his shabby attire? He slips away, returning in magnificent garb, and is welcomed warmly. When served his dinner, though, he proceeds to feed his coat! There is a lesson about appearances hidden in the lining of Nasrettin's strange behavior, one that readers will not likely soon forget. The great Islamic folk hero and champion of common sense gets his due in Demi's signature style: small, jeweled figures surrounded by swirling borders and motifs and touched with gold. This serious topic is told with good humor and cleverness, making this a sensational read-aloud that every child (and grown-up) will benefit from hearing, and one that will whet readers' appetites for more of Nasrettin's timeless fables. (6 and up)

Watch Out!
by Jan Fearley
published by Candlewick

Parents who have children with selective hearing will feel for the mother's refrain of "I wish you'd listen to me!" delivered to her energetic mousie boy Wilf who can't keep out of the dahlias, runs like a whirlwind, makes a honey-covered mess and has a mishap in the mud. Wilf is well-meaning, though, and tries to make amends for wearing her patience thin by delivering supper on a tray. In mommy's excitement to receive her special present, though, will she listen to Wilf? A sweet, redemptive story that shows developing "listening ears" isn't just a learning experience for mice and small children; everyone deserves a second chance. This story ends with a cuddle on the pages, and will likely end with a cuddle on your lap as well. (4 and up)

Agent A to Agent Z
by Andy Rash
published by Scholastic

Attention, spykids! The mission, should you decide to take it, is to help Agent A check on every operative on his list. He finds them each hard at work scaling walls with suction cups, flying from ejector seats or defusing bombs, all in impeccable meter ("Agent Q concealed in quiche/A roll of secret microfiche.") Reporting back to the spy chief (who appears to be Edward G. Robinson's second cousin), will the operation be determined a success? The big finish to this caper is a dance party, complete with DJ and plenty of Borises and Natashas cutting a rug. If your family enjoys The Spy Kids movies, Rocky and Bullwinkle or any of the Pink Panther stuff, you've got to have this book! Sleek artwork created by Adobe Photoshop with some human touches is heavy on the black, giving the feeling that you are peering over a pair of dark sunglasses. Each page turned met with a resounding "coooooool!" from second and third grade boys, who fell upon it like tigers on a t-bone. Rash definitely has his finger on the pulse of reluctant readers. This is the book Maxwell Smart and Agent 99 would read to their children, and you'd be smart, too, to give this perfectly savvy satire a thorough investigation. (5 and up)

Flying Feet
by James Stevenson
published by Greenwillow

When two smooth-talking tappers truck into the town of Mudd Flat, all of the animals want in on the act and pony up their savings for dance lessons. Stan is disappointed to find that he is not naturally talented, but manages to sell lots of tickets (except to curmudgeonly Mr. Cusspid) and make barrels of lemonade for the big recital. When the flim-flamming duo skip town during the last rehearsal, Stan steps up and serves as stage manager to insure that the heartbroken cast still reels in a hit. The ending is full of surprises, including an impromptu slapstick performance by Mr. Cusspid, a redeeming encore by the town's tap teachers, and a renewed sense of perseverance for our man Stan. Stevenson's dialogue is always funny and natural, and his seemingly spontaneous cartoons are Ginger to the Fred of his colloquial writing style. That's entertainment! (5 and up)

Crepes by Suzette
by Monica Wellington
published by Dutton

Suzette pushes her cart full of crepes all around Paris, feeding a variety of customers. A busy but consistent collage layout combines photographic backgrounds of landmarks, simple cartoons and a horizontal baseline border that gives clues about the lives of her patrons. Follow the map included to take a stroll with Suzette throughout the city! A very simple and tasty crepe recipe is included. If your appetite for France is still grande, feast your eyes on A Spree in Paris by Catherine Stock, in which the animals on Monsieur Monmouton's farm take a bit of a field trip, and The Cat Who Walked Across France by Kate Banks, illustrated by George Hallensleben (Farrar Straus Giroux) in which impressionistic illustrations illuminate this broader jaunt across the country. Quel storytime! (5 and up)

The Firekeeper's Son
by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Julie Downing
published by Clarion

Every night, the firekeeper climbs to the top of the mountain to light his fire, a signal to the firekeeper on the next mountain to light his fire, and so on, as a communication across the miles that there is peace in the land and no soldiers need to come to defend the territory. An accident leaves the responsibility to light the timbers to the firekeeper's young son, Sang-hee. But wouldn't it be fun to see the soldiers come? Wouldn't they be glad to visit Sang-hee's village by the sea? An important decision marks this little boy's coming of age, and the passing of a torch from father to son. The watercolor and pastel illustrations seem to glow by firelight, as does the warmth of the father's empathy for his son's dilemma. A fictionalized accounting of a real practice in 19th century Korea (and remember the same method used in the movie, The Return of the King?) , this Newbery-winning author proves she shines brightly in the picture book arena as well. (7 and up)

Cock-a-Doodle Moooo: A Mixed Up Menagerie
by Keith DuQuette
published by Putnam

Is that a Girantula creeping in the tree? Can you pet a sqoodle? Are those firefligeons glowing around the statue in the park? A dozen ridiculous animal scrambles will score sqeals of delight from readers, and the cool guide to animal combinations found in myths and legends from around the world is equally rare. Children will have a good time concocting their own creatures! ) (6 and up)

Sidewalk Circus
by Paul Fleischman, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes
published by Candlewick

Step right up to see double-page spreads depicting daring feats of everyday doings in this wordless picture book! That's right, folks, if you will just focus your eyes on the little girl at the bus stop across from the flashing marquee, you'll see what she sees: a tightrope walker in a construction worker, a sword-swallower in the dentist's office, clowns in the neighborhood skate punks and that's not all! This wordless picture book proves that actions speak louder than words, and is a three-ring tribute to the power of perspective and imagination. These glowing acrylic paintings are worthy of an equally glowing Caldecott nod. (7 and up)

Once Upon a Wedding
by Jeanette Milde
published by R & S Books

This story begins with the wedding invitation on the endpapers, but these parties never turn out quite the way they are planned, do they? A mischievous flower girl and rollicking ringbearers ensure this is the case in this subversive tribute to the day that is destined to be imprinted on the happy couple forever. Not particulary interested in the ceremony, these hellions busy themselves with attempts at tooth extraction, a game of underpants show-and-tell and a disconcerting round of hide-and seek. The pendulum swing between exasperation (thought balloon over mother reads "Will trade: Flower-girl for well-trained dog. Will also consider goldfish" ) and loving concern ("Lost! Children! Reward--all the money in the world") is realistic, as is the children's own agenda taking the day. I'm still laughing at the little girl's mimicry of her mother after the boy's complaint about "weird food": "'But if we don't eat it, we'll hurt the bride's feelings. Brides are so sensitive on their special day.'" The hilarious honesty in this zany Danish import may be a bit daring for some Americans, but it all ends very politely with a thank-you note. This book belongs on any young comedy lover's reading registry, and makes a very nice shower gift for your friendly neighborhood Bridezilla as well. (7 and up)

Mister Seahorse
by Eric Carle
published by Philomel

Dads give children a schooling in this undersea journey in which Mister Seahorse carries his pouch of eggs through the coral and seaweed, meeting other dads who are taking good care of their babies-to-be. The best part of an Eric Carle book is the assurance that kids are going to go "OOOOO!" somewhere in the reading, and they sure do, thanks to the glorious transparent overlays that camoflauge Mister Seahorse's colorful cohorts. The last line, "I do love you, but now you are ready to be on your own" was perhaps technically correct in the ocean world but roused a worried chorus of "why can't the babies stay with their daddy?" from human children, so you may want to pair this reading with another pro-papa pick from the nature, The Emperor's Egg by Martin Jenkins, illustrated by Jane Chapman (Candlewick), in which the father is also upstanding but sticks around after the birth. (5 and up)

The Leprechaun's Gold
by Pamela Duncan Edwards, illustrated by Henry Cole
published by HarperCollins

Old Pat travels to the contest that names the finest harpist in all of Ireland, but is accompanied by a scheming young competitor who serruptitiously snips one of his strings. Deep in the forest, they hear a cry for help, but it could be a leprechaun, full of evil tricks and they dare not answer. Finally, Old Pat's sympathies overcome him and he lends his aid and shares his food. Will the leprechaun mistake Old Pat's goodwill for golddigging, or will he have the luck of the Irish? This suspenseful tale has broad and generous illustrations, full of attractive borders and plenty of green. Children will have a merry time searching for the sixteen four-leaf clovers throughout the book, and librarians and teachers will know they've struck storytime gold with this perfect St. Patrick's day pick that shines every other day of the year as well. See if you can read it without falling into a brogue! (5 and up)

We have more good luck this year with other Irish offerings, such as The Copper Braid of Shannon O'Shea by Laura Esckelson, illustrated by Pam Newton (Dial), in which an incredible head of red gets unbraided, unleashing a fair share of chotchkes from Celtic tradition. Shannon O'Shea's braid gives Rapunzel's rug a run for her money, and the couplets are as lively as a hornpipe. (5 and up) Then there's A Fine St. Patrick's Day by Susan Wojciechowski and illustrated by Tim Curry (Random House), in which an entire town gets painted green as a reward for a community's charitable spirit. (5 and up) And at the end of the Irish reading rainbow is a real Pot O'Gold : A Treasury Of Irish Stories, Poetry, Folklore, And (of Course) Blarney by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by David McPhail, one of the finest juvenile Irish collections available today. Anthologized from greats like James Joyce, Oscar Wilde and William Butler Yeats, brimming with folk wisdom, limericks, songs, riddles, and a healthy dose of fairies and leprechauns, thoughtfully arranged with every page caressed in watercolors, this is the embodiment of what a treasury should be. (7 and up)
Also of interest: Flying Feet: A Story of Irish Dance by Anna Marlis Burgard, illustrated by Leighanne Dees (Chronicle)
The St. Patrick's Day Shillelagh by Janet Nolan, illustrated by Ben F. Stahl (Whitman)

Halibut Jackson
by David Lucas
published by Knopf

Move over, Vera Wang! Halibut Jackson is piecing together fabulous suits that camoflague the shy designer in all settings: see if you can spot his apple-covered fedora in the produce section, his flowery frock in the city park, and oh, dahhling, his shelf-of-books suit that he wears to the library is simply to die for! When the queen invites Halibut to a palace party, he pulls out all the stops in order to disguise himself admist the grand surroundings, but a change in backdrop to the garden threatens to reveal this wallflower for the rose he is! Theis gentle, charming book, like its main character, deserves to be noticed. Whimsical, swirling illustrations bring to mind the marvels of Beni Montresor (of Caldecott-winning May I Bring a Friend? fame), and will inspire children to shine like the stars they are! How about an after-storytime fashion show of invented vests made from paper grocery bags? The catwalk will never be the same. (5 and up)

Mount Olympus Basketball
by Kevin O'Malley
published by Walker

Hey there, sportsfans! Color commentary is the context for this mighty battle between the Mortals and the Greek Gods beneath the basket! It's non-stop action as Achilles assists Jason, only to be thwarted by Poseidon ("the god of the sea can still stir up a great defense"). We pause for a commercial for ancient Greece after the second quarter, and then , what's this? Helen of Troy is pulling a wooden horse up to the net. This irreverent action on the court is the perfect context for cementing knowledge of these literary immortals in the minds of young readers; a more formal introduction for kids before introducing this parody may be found in the D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths. As far as the energetic and expressive artwork goes, he shoots and scores! Another three-pointer by O'Malley! (7 and up)

God Bless the Child
by Billie Holliday and Arthur Herzog Jr.,
illustrated by Jerry Pinkney
published by HarperCollins

The Great Migration from the rural South to urban North provides an evocative visual background to the great jazz standard. Using extensive vintage photograph collections as a reference, Pinkney's watercolors capture the moods and movements of a family in the 1940's striving for a better life, and the ending in a classroom is really a new beginning. A great tribute to tenacity and self-reliance, and a bittersweet prayer for equal opportunity. A CD is provided with this book, turning it into a sing-aloud as well as a read-aloud. (4 and up)

Smile, Lily!
by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Yumi Heo
published by Atheneum

Waa! Waa! Waa! Lily won't stop crying, and each family member in turn gives a good go at cheering her up. Luckily, big brother has a smile as wide as baby's cries, and look at the cover, that's pretty wide! Anyone with a baby will be smiling widely, too, both in painful recognition of the conflict and in satisfaction of the story's resolution. While the premise may be familiar, the execution is what sets it apart; lovely lilting verse has all the feel of a rocking chair, and Heo's wacky illustrations, full of lovely pastel patterns and people poking out in all directions, really conveys the fracas that a fretful baby brings. A great gift for anyone with a colicky child, or for a big brother or sister who knows just what to do to make a newcomer feel welcome. (birth and up)

Private and Confidential: A Story About Braille
by Marion Ripley, illustrated byColin Backhouse
published by Dial

Laura is excited to be matched with a penpal at school, Malcolm, only to be disappointed when after their initial exchange she doesn't hear from him for weeks on end. Finally, a letter arrives in which her Malcolm's sister explains that he has had to go in for an operation on his eyes, and in fact, will never see very well. Laura is sad and confused that Malcolm didn't share his malady in the one letter she did receive, and Laura's father explains sensibly, "Perhaps he didn't think it was the most important thing about him." Sighted children will have the rare opportunity to decode Malcolm's letter to Laura written in braille. (7 and up)

Bing: Paint Day
by Ted Dewan
published by Random House

Rejoice, fans of Rosemary Wells' Max series; there's a new bunny in town! Bing is an exuberant little bunny whose adventures are rendered with a super-saturated palette that will harken back to your old Golden Books, but these smooth, splashy computer- collages will speak to the next generation. Start exploring this board book series with Paint Day, in which our exuberant little hero plunges his paintbrush into all the colors of the rainbow. Concept books with a real flair, I hope titles in this series multiply as fast as rabbits. (2 and up)

The Dirty Cowboy
by Amy Timberlake, illustrated by Adam Rex
published by Farrar Straus Giroux

Fans of Captain Underpants, rejoice! Here is a hilarious new picture book that will produce laundry loads of laughter. After a couple of years, a rancid roper decides it's time to take a bath, and clearly instructs his trusted dog not to let anyone touch his clothes while he takes a dip in the ol' watering hole. Unfortunately, when the cowboy returns, man's best friend doesn't recognize him and, following instructions to the letter, will not let the hapless hop-a-long have his raiments returned. Items in the illustrations are strategically placed a la Austin Powers, but look past the frivolity and you'll find some very accomplished oil painting. Once all the soap suds have cleared, this is a very thoughtful book about what makes us recognizable to others. (5 and up)

The Hard-Times Jar
by Ethel Footman Smothers, illustrated by John Holyfield
published by Farrar Straus Giroux

Emma is one book-hungry little girl. But money is "scarcer than hen's teeth," which means "no extras" for this family of African American migrant workers, and that includes no store-bought books. So Emma makes her own , fastening brown paper pages with safety pins. When Emma starts school, it is with much trepidation, until kind Miss Miller reveals-- wonder of wonders!--a coatroom full of books! The temptation to take one home proves too much for Emma, Will her lapse be the end of her chances to read, or will it be the beginning of her mother recognizing that maybe a book is worth taking money out of the family's "hard times jar"? Beautiful paintings featuring elongated figures against lush backdrops are frame-worthy, a perfect accent to this sensitive story about the allure of literature and it's value. You'll be glad you took money out of your "hard times jar" for this one; it belongs in the collection of anyone whose heart has beaten a little bit faster at the sight of a brand-new book. (6 and up)

by Tony Kushner, illustrated by Maurice Sendak
published by Hyperion

Mommy has taken ill, and the doctor says that fresh milk is the only thing for it. the children rush to the market to fetch it, but wherever can children get money to buy milk? From the grown-ups, of course! Their ploy to make the necessary fortune fair-and-square through street performing is thwarted, however, by the bullying Brundibar and his horrific hurdy-gurdy. The children are left desloate until help is enlisted from nearby animals and three hundred children who generously skip school in order to lend their aid. Together, they prove that the meek shall inherit the marketplace, and that "people are happy helping/it's never hard to find help/it is only hard to know that it's time to ask." This book is based on the Czech opera by Hans Krasa that was performed fifty five times by the children of Terezin, the Nazi concentration camp; most all of the children who performed it died in the gas chambers. This may or may not be a piece of information you care to share with young listeners, but it is important to know because this is a subversive piece with many shades of light and dark. Cutting and timely, it can be read on many levels. Children should know this story because children who were killed in war wanted other children to know this story, and ultimately it is a story of child-as-hero, as rescuer, as the good that triumphs over evil. But the last page is haunting, a note from Brundibar suggesting that he and his bullying ways will be back again; if you look carefully, you will see it is scrawled over a party invitation to the residents of Terezin. Who is asking for help now? Who will deliver it? (All ages)

The Sound of Day, The Sound of Night
by Mary O'Neill, illustrated by Cynthia Jabar
published by Farrar Straus Giroux

Goodnight, moon, there's a new bedtime book in town! Use the first section of this book titled "sound of day" at breakfast, and ease into your nocturnal rhythm with the second section, "sound of night." Both parts of the book are told in lilting rhyme, celebrating the shifting sounds as the day fades into night. Jolly illustrations in glowing colors tell the story of a new baby's arrival to the home and inclusion into the routine of a lively brother and sister, making this a perfect choice for new parents or growing families. Whoever you share this cozy, darling book with, you are sure to enjoy the sweet sound of read-aloud success. (2 and up)

Diary of a Worm
by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Harry Bliss
published by HarperCollins

The latest from the author of Click, Clack, Moo! Cows That Type does not disappoint! This book offers the real dirt of a worm's-eye view of the world. For instance: "April 20. I snuck up on some kids in the park today. They didn't hear me coming. I wiggled up right between them and they SCREAMED. I love it when they do that." Harry Bliss's illustrations add so much (who knew a worm could be so expressive?) and offer plenty of comic relief (check out the "macaroni necklaces" in art class that are just one macaroni long). So many children journal at school or keep their own personal diary at home, and this book demonstrates that you don't have to write a lot to keep a good record; a few well-chosen words can tell so much about a character or a day. Be sure to include it in language arts programs for older kids, too! (6 and up)

If the diary form appeals to you, also be sure to check out Diary of a Wombat by Jackie French, illustrated by Bruce Whatley (published by Clarion) The stuggles and triumphs of this lumbering garden pest from down under are explored day by day, whether it's reigning victorious after waging battle with a flat, hairy creature (a.k.a. doormat) or banging on large metal object (garbage can) until carrots miraculously appear, one thing's for sure: there's going to be a lot of sleeping and scratching involved. Whatley's sparse but loaded studies make the wombat loveable, despite his many, many faults, and one can only wonder at how well-trained his humans are. (5 and up)

by Alexis Deacon
published by Farrar Straus Giroux

Beegu, a space creature that resembles a yellow, three-eyed bunny, is lost in space---planet Earth, to be exact. After trying to find comfort in various unresponsive passers-by, friends are finally found on a school playground. When the odd little playmate is dismissed, we wonder , will Beegu ever find a place she can belong? The simplicity of the story carries a strange, laconic profundity that will speak directly to both the vulnerability and the kindness of a small child. Beegu's exciting beginning and comforting end will make this a laptime favorite. As far as illustrations go, this is the most darling book to come out this season. I can't wait for the stuffed animal! (4 and up)

The Paper Princess Finds Her Way
by Elisa Kleven
published by Dutton

In this sequel to the first adventure, The Paper Princess, the little girl who drew this endearing paper doll has grown up, and our heroine is fading in the sunlight. "Children stop hearing their toys when they grow up," the family dog explains. "She wants to go out and make new friends." "I wish I could go out and make new friends," the princess says, and then walks the walk by catching the breeze. She is whisked away into the claws of a cat and the sticky paws of a baby, on to a shelf of fancy store-bought toys and into the hands of an artistic boy, from the top of a Christmas tree and into a flock of migrating monarchs who deliver her to her final destination, the place where the princess is happiest of all. Kleven knows exactly what kids like: a book where things happen! Every page is alive with collaged detail, a real minature world. The princess is swept over an autumn scene by the butterflies, and on another page, wears a dress made out of Christmas tree, but doubtless, your child will have their own favorite pages. The writing is eloquent without being pretentious, and when you read it aloud your own voice will quaver with the abundant joy that permeates the narrative. Besides being full of little, lovely truths ("It's a hard word for small, fragile things"), there is a larger, hopeful message that change is always possible, and it is a message that is sure to help a new generation find their way to happiness. (5 and up) Attention, science teachers: use this book in combination with Gotta Go, Gotta Go by Sam Swope and Song of the Swallows by Leo Politi for a very nice literature-based introduction to winged migration. (5 and up)

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland:
A Pop-Up Adaptation of Lewis Carroll's Original Tale

by Robert Sabuda
published by Simon and Schuster

All right, enough is enough. Is somebody going to give this man a Caldecott or not?! It's getting ridiculous. This and last year's miraculous The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: A Commemorative Pop-up are beyond books. They are magic tricks in binding. I don't see how anyone can pick up Sabuda's masterpieces and not have their idea of what a book can be changed forever. The illustrations were created with hundreds of block carvings in the style of Alice's original illustrator, John Tenniel. Though the text is abridged, it includes all the best bits (including my favorite complaint of dear, whiny little Alice: "and what is the use of a book without pictures or conversations?") and is thoughtfully tucked within smaller books inside the big book, each with small pop ups inside the pages. You have got to see it to believe it; the paper engineering effects are otherwordly, like Alice's extending neck after she nibbles on a mushroom, or the three dimensional Victorian peep show that allows us to view Alice falling deep down inside the rabbit hole, and the last page in which Alice is under attack by the playing cards will have you running for cover. Some of the pop-ups are so complex, there is even timing involved. These kind of books largely have to be hand-assembled, and I can't imagine what went into producing this chef d'oerve; all I know is a tea-party toast is in order. (7 and up) And for a taste of what's throgh the looking glass, suit up in armour and battle the Jabberwocky , Lewis Carroll's poem newly illustrated by Joel Stewart (published by Candlewick, ages 4 and up).

by Denise Fleming
published by Henry Holt

Buster has plenty to wag his tail about, living a dog's life, until old Brown Shoes brings is a box containing none other than a cat named Betty! Is Buster really supposed to put up with this? When the furry little white hairball actually changes Buster's favorite radio station, it's more than he can abide. He slips under fence and frolics in the park, but when it's time to go home, Buster is in dire need of a friend…even a feline one. A map towards the end of the book that allows even the youngest readers to follow Buster's path home, and is a great opportunity to tie map-reading skills into this romp. Though the "displaced dog" theme has been done before, it's still very well done here, and Fleming's artwork is always a best-in show; bright cotton paper pulp poured through hand-cut stencils creates supersaturated images that are almost palpable. Visit for more on her technique. (5 and up)

Children's books are going to the dogs in general! Look at all these new titles, and decide which one is your pet:
A Day in the Life of Murphy by Alice Provenson (Simon and Schuster) (5 and up)
Berkeley Breathed's Flawed Dogs: the Year-End Leftovers at the Piddleton "Last Chance" Dog Pound by Berkeley Breathed (Little, Brown) (7 and up)
Waggle by Sarah McMenemy (Candlewick) (3 and up)
Poochie-Poo by Helen Stephens (Random House) (3 and up)
Buster and Phoebe: The Great Bone Game by Lisze Bechtold (Houghton Mifflin) (4 and up)
The Rosie Stories by Cynthia Voigt, illustrated by Cat Bowman Smith (Holiday House) (6 and up)
(Both Buster and Phoebe and The Rosie Stories are darling first chapter books from a dog's-eye view!)
Pipiolo and the Roof Dogs by Brian Meunier, illustrated by Perky Edgerton (Dutton) (7 and up)
Orville: A Dog Story by Haven Kimmel, illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker (Clarion) (7 and up)
Ten Puppies by Lynn Rieser (Greenwillow) (5 and up)
And be sure to check out the excellent nonfiction book,The True-or-False Book of Dogs by Patricia Lauber, illustrated by Rosalyn Schanzer (HarperCollins) (5 and up), which provides answers to intruiging questions like whether a dog treats a bone the way a wolf treats extra food, whether pet dogs outnumber working dogs and what sense dogs have that humans don't. Any child experiencing puppy love will find plenty to like and learn here!

Night Cat
by Margaret Beames, illustrated by Sue Hitchcock
published by Orchard

Cat's eyes glowing out of the darkness is how this evocative book begins, and readers prowl alongside the feline as he moves through the garden, stealthily as a shadow. Who knew it was full of so many surprises? Most likely you and your children have not seen a book that looks like this before. Using computer generated images, it is emblematic of a new wave of children's book illustration; though many artists are experimenting with the technique, this is an example of it being done very well, so naturally that you might not notice anything besides the sharpness and depth of the images. Using an evocative palette of reds, blacks, and purples, with careful, sporatic use of light to create mood and surprise, it seems to capture the very spirit of night, of adventure, of the cat's own capriciousness. Perspective moves from near and far and startles the senses, textures seem so realistic that it seems natural to reach out and touch them. Howling, yowling, brazen, are your children brave enough to join this cat on the prowl? Once the last page is turned and you are left again, like the cat, safe and warm in your home, you will still be mouthing one word: "wow." (5 and up)

Of course, felines also have their paws into the mix this fall season, a couple of the sharpest being The Nine Lives of Aristotle by Dick King-Smith, an action-packed short chapter book about the life of a witch's cat, perfect for read aloud or for new independent readers, and Nothing's Nosier Than a Cat by Susan Campell Bartoletti, illustrated by Beppe Giacobbe, which lyrically and liltingly explores all the adjectives that makes kitties so enigmatic, and sleeeek illustrations that capture these creatures in all of their "cattitude." But if you're like so many cat fanatics, one or two simply won't do, so adopt these titles as well:
Skippyjonjones by Judy Schachner (Dutton) (A Siamese kitten with a riotous imagination will require your best read-aloud voices!) (5 and up)
Three Samurai Cats by Eric A. Kimmel, illustrated by Mordecai Gerstein (Holiday House) (The maser of international folktales visits Japan to find felines with unconventional problem-solving abilities. Beware, rats!) (5 and up)
Señor Don Gato by John Manders (The traditional song about a Mexican Pepe le Peu who gets banged around in the process of delivering a love letter. Our lovelorn hero gets droll treatment by Manders. Let children join in the refrain of "meow, meow, meow!") (5 and up)

Boxes for Katje
by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Stacey Dressen-McQueen
published by Farrar Straus Giroux

Wold War II has ended, but the struggling in Katje's little town in Holland has not. Soap is a luxury, and sugar is scarce, but thanks to a penpal from America, Katje starts receiving gifts that she...and her whole neighborhood...can enjoy. How can Katje ever reciprocate? Children will cheer as each package is opened and thoughtful, helpful gifts are revealed, and will have fun sneaking peeks into the girls' letters to each other. Colored pencils, pastels, acrylics and more smiles than you can shake a paintbrush at make the folksy artwork a pleasure on every page. An absolutely bouyant and inspiring book about friendship and helping, with a little history and language arts thrown in; kids wil be interested to know that it is based on a real experience the author's grandmother had with the Children's Aid Society. Goodness, Fleming just doesn't seem to write a bad book, and with this latest title, the author may have some boxes of fan mail forthcoming! (6 and up)

Little Old Big Beard and Big Young Little Beard:
A Short and Tall Tale

by Remy Charlip, illustrated by Tamara Rettenmund
published by Cavendish

You can't be a cowboy unless you have a cow, so you can understand the urgency as these best friends go on a search for their beloved bovine Grace, who does indeed prove amazing and manages to show up in the nick of time to rescue the boys from their puddle of tears. All the watercolors of the sunrise and sunset are employed to capture these busy days and nights, and what fun as the boys treipze up and down the stylized ravines! Hyperbole and hijinks make this story speak directly to its young audience. Remy Charlip was named "a national treasure" at the Library of Congress, and I think it's a well-deserved title. Few authors can tap into the spirit of a child in all its silliness and reverie, and I recommend this latest with the hopes that it will lead you to explore and share his whole body of work, such as Fortunately and Why I Will Never Ever Ever Ever Have Enough Time to Read This Book. Besides, this title has the best author photo I think I have ever seen in my life. (6 and up)

Just a Minute! A Trickster Tale and Counting Book
by Yuyi Morales
published by Chronicle

It takes more than a pretty please to separate a grandma from her grandchildren, as this clever abuela proves in a trickster tale in which party preparations take up a little too much time for Senor Calavera, a skeleton patiently waiting to take this busy woman to the other side. When he sees that she is indeed the hostess with the mostess, he rescinds his own creepy invitation…after all, he wants to come to next year's party, doesn't he? Bold Mexican motifs make this a sensible pick for Dia de los Muertos, but don't be silly like Senor Calavera and wait, use the book right away to help children learn to count from one to ten in Spanish, and to celebrate the special loving ties of a family that can cordially show trouble the door. This not-too-scary book ends with a reassuring wink, and is smiles all through, thanks to writing that belies Morales' storytelling background and an absolutely gorgeous palette that seems inspired by the streamers of a pinata. (7 and up)

Indescribably Arabella
by Jane Gilbert
published by Atheneum

Many times when I ask little girls what they would like to be when they grow up, they answer, "famous!" Here is the book for them! Arabella wants to be famous more than anything in the world, and tries her hand at painting, acting and dancing, all to no avail. She is about to give up her dreams of stardom when she meets a weary and lonely couple who finds Arabella's unqiue talents to be just what the doctor ordered. This is a joyful book about how each artistic vision makes a contribution to the world, and how much fun it is to be famous to those who know you! Handwritten text and sweet, vintage illustrations full of pink and chartreuese, violet and turquoise, very Audrey Hepburn all the way around. Inspired by her own childhood diaries, the author created and illustrated this story in 1947. Gilbert couldn't get it published because of paper shortages during the Korean War, so she tucked it away in a trunk. Encouraged by a friend, Arabella was resubmitted in 2001, and voila! This background story futher supports the story's theme: don't give up, you will be appreciated someday! Applause, applause! (4 and up)

The Tale of Urso Brunov, Little Father of All Bears
by Brian Jacques, illustrated by Alexi Natchev
published by Philomel

The family of thumb-sized bears have all fled into the snowy forest, following the southern path of the migrating Bean Goose. Who will get them back? Urso Brunov, of course! But it's not so easy, since they have been captured by the nefarious Lord of All Sands, who has been kidnapping animals for his zoo. Who will free them all? Urso Brunov, of course! My, my, is there anything Urso Brunov can't do? Certainly not! He is the wisest, strongest and bravest in the land. Just ask Urso Brunov! Children who like adventure stories will enjoy the escapades of bravery by this bitty bruin told in the beautiful language (we expect no less from the author of the Redwall series), but the length of this quest might require more than one night (such is the bane when novelists write picture books!). Best of all is the opulent mixed media artwork reminiscent of Mordecai Gerstein, with a Russian flavor. Flip the pages to see Father Brunov dance in the upper right-hand corner! (7 and up)

Okie Dokie, Artichokie!
by Grace Lin
published by Viking

Marklee the monkey is delighted to see a moving van pull up in front of his apartment building, and rushes out to greet his new neighbor, a slightly aloof giraffe named Artichoke. "Hey, if I get to loud or something, you can just bang on the ceiling and let me know," Marklee advises. Unfortunately, Artichoke seems to take this to an exponential level, bang-banging at the sound of everything from frying bananas to answering the phone. When Marklee goes down to talk about the situation and Artichoke doesn't answer the door, it seems all civility has gone down the drain… until the holidays roll around and a package arrives that just might clear up a misunderstanding that has been standing between them. Simple, cheerful illustrations capture both the enthusiasm and frustration of well-meaning Marklee, and a natural, funny rapartee will help young readers recognize more than a bit of themselves in the characters. Not only an outstanding book about the power (and necessity!) of communication, but a book about loving thy neighbor that I thinkwould have even given Fred Rogers a good feeling. If you enjoy books with surprise endings, or are looking for a good city story, this is definitely one not to miss! (6 and up)

Names for Snow
by Judi K. Beach, illustrated by Loretta Krupinski
published by Hyperion

The Inuits have more than fifty names for snow, which inspired the author to come up with fourteen of her own. How many can your children come up with? A little mouse living on the farm has the many kinds of snow defined for him by a loving mother. Silver-blue frames add to the wintry feel, and the delicate paintings of landscapes are charming and evocative in turn. A book as satisfying as a cup of cocoa that truly captures the spirit of winter, with it's chill on the outside and warmth on the inside. (4 and up)

by Mary Jane and Herm Auch
published by Holiday House

Not since Roger Duvoisin's Petunia have we come across such literate poultry! When the layers' egg production is down, farmer sends them on "vacation," and it's Henrietta's ability to read that rescues her aunties from being in the soup. After using her bird-brain to helps some cows and pigs falling for a similar ruse. As a finale, Henrietta pulls a coup for her coop by using reading clues to find a new home with a vegetarian farmer. Computer generated illustrations give these ilustrations a lot of dimension, and the action-packed story proves one thing above all else: reading is power! If you enjoy this farmyard fun, shake a tail feather to find Poultrygeist and all of this team's many poultry parodies. (5 and up)

Olivia and the Missing Toy
by Ian Falconer
published by Atheneum

The porcine princess is back, and this time it's personal when her best, best, best toy comes up missing. Could the family dog really be the culprit, and can she ever learn to forgive? A combination of cerebral artwork (please note the poster of Martha Grahame mid-arabesque in Olivia's room, and the moody fold-out spread in which Olivia learn's her toy's fate on a dark and stormy night) and out-and-out snark (look at Mama's face when Olivia exclaims"Oh, thank you, Daddy. I love you more than anyone") gives many facets to a mystery that will capture the imagination and tickle the funnybone of both the child and the adult who is providing the lap. (5 and up)

Just Enough and Not Too Much
by Kaethe Zemach
published by Scholastic

A fiddler lives a simple life, enjoying food when he's hungry and friends when he's lonely. He grows discontent with his little house and decides to add to his collections in order to spruce the place up a bit. When his avarice gets out of hand, he is able to reverse the damage by planning a party and distributing all of his extras among friends, leaving him with just the right amount of stuff and more than his fair share of happiness. Less is more in this colorful story of one man's salvation in the face of clutter. Just enough of her parents' merrymaking legacy is what makes Kaethe Zemach's work worth inviting into your storytime. (4 and up)

Don't Let a Pigeon Drive the Bus!
by Mo Willems
published by Hyperion

The busdriver has left very clear instructions: don't let the pigeon drive the bus. From the thought balloon hovering over our little blue feathered friend, however, it is clear that this guy has only one thing on his mind. He starts by asking nicely, then cajoles, resorts to a little pouting, and then on to a full-fledged tantrum (sound familiar?). It's up to the listeners to join in the repartee and make it quite clear: the answer is still NO! The author is an Emmy-award winning writer and animator for Sesame Street, and this storyline does live in the neighborhood in another interactive classic, The Monster at the End of This Book: Starring Lovable, Furry Old Grover by Jon Stone. Another tell-tale sign of the author's past associations is that this book would also make a lovely puppet show. A clever, interactive comic book that's right on the pulse of what makes little kids laugh. (4 and up) Also be sure to check out Willems' Time to Pee! in which a straightforward, humorous approach to this rite of passage has perfect aim for preschoolers. Depicting both boys and girls, this is the best book for toilet training since Alona Frankel's Once Upon a Potty . (3 and up)

In English, of Course
by Josephine Nobisso, illustrated by Dasha Ziborova
published by Gingerbread House

The members of Josephine's classroom all seem to come from somewhere else, and are called upon in turn to talk about where their families are from. But when it's Josephine's turn, she is not sure she has enough English under her belt to explain that her parents are architectural engineers from Napoli, Italy. Her limited language leads her into uncharted farm territory, where with the help of her teacher she is able to share an extravagant reminiscence about a cow, told with a lot of body language. This hilarious and honest book explores both the insides and the outsides of an extremely intelligent child who is just gathering the tools she needs to make herself understood. The splashy collage illustrations appropriately reflect the wild amounts of information that are being sorted through, along with the style and spirit of the story's heroine. ESL students and teachers will cheer here, but any child will empathize with Josephine's earnest attempt to share the best of herself with her class. "Sometimes native-speaking people underestimate the talents, dignity and wit of newcomers to a country," the author muses in her postscript. All of these attributes come through loud and clear in one of the more endearing characters and accurate classroom narratives to appear in children's literature in a long time. (6 and up)

Loony Little
by Dianna Hutts Aston,
illustrated by Kelly Murphy
published by Candlewick

Goodness glaciers! The polar icecap is melting, and Loony Little is rushing with a band of Arctic friends to tell the Polar Bear Queen. Events take a chilling turn, however, when the Polar Bear Queen doesn't really seem to care. Who is left to tell? A provocative take-off on the folktale "Chicken Little," this book also includes helpful notes about the animals depicted in the story, as well as straightforward information (including websites) about global warming. Environmental topics are important for the next generation, so this thoughtful book deserves inclusion in every primary science program and can serve as a springboard into this complicated topic for upper grades as well. (6 and up)

Coyote School News
by Joan Sandin
published by Henry Holt

Marvelous storytelling timeline following twelve students who attend the Coyote School. The tales of Monchi and his family living between Tucson and the Mexican border are told in fast-moving anecdotal style, describing exciting events like the Fiesta de Los Vaqueros (the big annual rodeo) and breaking open the Christmas pinata, as well as more everyday events like a visit from the nurse to the school and an attempt at a baseball game…who let the cattle out! Each vignette is perfectly accented by a page from "The Coyote School News," inspired by actual newsletters written by Arizona ranch country schools between 1932 and 1943. Besides this unique treatment, lovely watercolor and pen-and-ink illustrations, both big and small, help bring the school year to life. By the last day, readers will have a very clear picture of a school that they will surely wish they could attend. And qué bueno, there's no way your own estudiantes will not be inspired to create their own classroom newsletter after reading this book! (7 and up)

The Day the Babies Crawled Away
by Peggy Rathmann
published by Putnam

Through the froggy bog! Through the bee-filled trees! Into the bat-brimming cave and down the steep cliff, oh, those naughty babies are taking one vigilante boy on a real baby chase, as he tries to reign in some renegade rugrats and deliver them back to worried parents. With never a dull moment, this story is sharply illustrated in silhouettes, but even in shadow this virtuoso Rathmann manages to clearly delinate each of her characters. Besides being lovely to look at, this book offers unique visiual exercise; Children will have a wonderful time pointing out each of the five babies in the pictures and picking a favorite. The story winds down to a gentle end, with a powerful last page depicting our hero in the arms of his own mother, as the sun sets on this busy and adventurous day, the day the babies crawled away. Run, don't crawl, to get your hands on a copy of this latest by the author of Goodnight, Gorilla. (4 and up)

by Michel Gay
published by Clarion

Zee is for Zebra, and not just any zebra, but the cutest one to grace your shelves in children's book history! When Zee's parents wake up, Zee is aloud to climb into bed with them, but the question is how to wake them up without making them angry? Breakfast in bed, of course! Zee's best laid plans require a little extra initiative, but get him where he wants to go: a family snuggle worthy of a grand finale. This is one primary read that definitely earns it's stripes. (3 and up)

Quiet Loud
by Leslie Patricelli
published by Candlewick

Thinking is quiet. Singing is LOUD. Slippers are quiet. Mommy's shoes are LOUD. Sniffles are quiet. Sneezes are LOUD. Reading is quiet, but laughter will be LOUD when you share any of the insanely perfect reflections of baby's world in any of Patricelli's books. A charismatic diapered baby is the great discoverer across the boards of these books, with a contagious smile and plenty of experience to share. Endearing and cheering, the splash that this set of books will make is LOUD. (birth and up)

Mary Smith
by A. U'Ren
published by Farrar Straus Giroux

Whatever did people do before there were alarm clocks? Townspeople hired "knocker-ups" like Mary Smith, armed with a peashooter and pocket watch, to pellet the windowpanes. But when Mary returns home after an early morning's work, could it be that her very own daughter is still in bed, late for school! Oh, the shame! Only a bullseye can redeem them now, and the aim is exactly right on in this mix of history and mischief that will have readers early to bed and early to rise, if only to have a chance to share this book again. The illustrations are handsome and nostalgic with a bit of Breugel, and the story includes a photo of the real Mary Smith and fun facts that will be a real wake-up call to even the youngest history buffs. (6 and up)

The Jupiter Stone
by Paul Owen Lewis
published by Tricycle

Mind, prepare to be blown! Follow a rock through its journey through the vastness of space, under the sea, through millions of years and into the hands of a child, and back into space again. School Library Journal said the artwork had "the hypnotic quality of a lava lamp," and it does. The dark, deep, starry pages are nearly as beautiful as staring through a telescope into the cosmos. The rhythm of nature and it's patient, boggling cycles are lovingly celebrated here, in a few well chosen sentences embracing not only the possibilities of our earth but of the whole universe. "Hold infinity in the palm of your hand/And eternity in an hour," William Blake is quoted in on the last page, and that's a bit of what this book allows readers to do. (5 and up)

The Very Smart Pea and the Princess-To-Be
by Mini Grey
published by Knopf

Peas have never been so appetizing as in this parody of Andersen's "The Princess and the Pea," this time, from the pea's perspective. A variety of would-be princesses fail to pass the test of what makes a real princess, but when the castle gardener comes a-knocking, our forward-thinking vegetable really goes out on a vine to insure a happily ever after. Pithy jokes and frugal text make this perfect for storytime (pair up with Jon Scieszka's The True Story of the Three Pigs by A. Wolf for a little lesson in POV), but the artwork is the real royalty here. Look for peas in the most unexpected places in this smooth, modern illustration style, perfectly suited to the story of a poor pea who is liberated by a liberated princess-to-be. (6 and up)

More fairy-tale parodies to pull out from under your mattress:
Cinderlily by David Ellwand and Christine Tagg (Candlewick) (5 and up)
Cinderella's Dress by Nancy Willard, illustrated by Jane Dyer (Scholastic) (7 and up)
Kitty Princess and the Newspaper Dress by Emma Carlow and Trevor Dickinson (Candlewick) (4 and up)

Baby Radar
by Naomi Shihab Nye,
illustrated by Nancy Carpenter
published by Greenwillow

Ever wish you could remember what it was like to be a baby, rolled around in an umbrella stroller? This book will take you, back, back, back to those baby days, and help you to appreciate your baby's ways. Whether on the loose from mama, meeting a dog hand -to-muzzle, or admiring big kids zooming by, the world from a small child's eyes comes into sharp and poignant focus in this free verse, accented by loose and lively line illustrations that capture the action that a child sees all around. Any small child will recognize their world reflected and celebrated here, but this title should also be shared with older children to explore perspective in their own writing. More than an excellent picture book, this is sheer poetry and will be much more than a blip on the radar of anyone who cares for and shares with young children. (2 and up)

Dirty Bertie
by David Roberts
published by Abrams

Wah-lah, a booger-picker's delight is Dirty Bertie, whose illustrations will have you seeing green. Such excavations is only the tip of the dirt pile, as Bertie forays into worm collecting, dog-licking and public peeing. Can his nasty, nasty habits be stopped before his family keels over? It seems they can, but some habits are just a little too hard to break. While this book is not to everyone's taste (in fact, it may serve as an appetite supressant), it will appeal especially to certain little boys who like certain kinds of jokes, I think you know who you are! (5 and up)

Older children who have outgrown potty humor but still have a streak of silliness waiting to erupt will find relief in The Last Burp of Mac McGerp by Pam Smallcomb (published by Bloomsbury USA), a modern chapter book tall tale about a boy who is suffocating under a principals' efforts to straighten out a school, prohibiting sports and field trips in the process. When burps are considered out of bounds, Mac McGerp is being asked a little much; after all, the boy has talent, and what happens to a dream…or a burp…deferred? It explodes, of course! A shining star in the gross-ball genre, this book is more than a flash in the potty, it's an interesting exploration into children's gifts, and how the choices we make as grown-ups can stand in the way of children opening them. (9 and up)

The Dot
by Peter H. Reynolds
published by Candlewick

Aggghhh, the empty paper, every artist's bane! What to draw, what to draw? "Just make a mark and see where it takes you," Vashti's teacher advises. When the dot gets kudos in class, Vashti ups her own antie and makes quite a splash at the art show. When another student asks her advice, Vashti knows just what to say. Simple lines of pen and ink, and simple lines of text, but don't be fooled. This unassuming little book is really a splendid tribute to the daring of art, and how much chutzpah it takes for any artist to make his mark. An inspiring must-have for any school with an arts program, and a double-must-have for any child who attends a school without one! By the illustrator of the Judy Moody. series. (5 and up)

Bagels from Benny
by Aubrey Davis, illustrated by Dusan Petricic
published by Kids Can Press

Grandpa bakes the best bagels in town, but whenever he receives a compliment, he shrugs it off; after all, isn't a larger power responsible for all the things that go into the bagels? This philosophy perplexes his grandson Benny, who decides that if God is really the one who deserves thanks, the best way to give it must be to leave bagels in the Holy Ark at the synogogue. Though I don't usually go in for books with anything sectarian in them, this book is an exception, containing both universal questions that children have, and the universal truth that there is no greater demonstration of gratefulness for what we have than to share a bit of it with others. A sensitive, funny and provocative book that you'll be thankful to have in your collection, no matter what faith your family holds. (5 and up)

Alligator Sue
by Sharon Arms Doucet, illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf
published by Farrar Straus Giroux

Get ready for girl-power, Lousiana-style! Pauvre petite, Suzanne Marie Sabine Chicot Thibodeaux has been swooped away by a hurricane from her simple swamp home, mid-accordian song, and is planted nose to snout with Mama Coco, a saw-toothed alligator who raises her like kin. But when the old houseboat is rediscovered, a decision must be made: gator or girl, or how 'bout a little bit of everything to make a perfect jambalaya? Wild cartoon illustrations capture the craziness of the situation, and give the fearless heroine more'n a little esprit (I just love the off-the-shoulder red and white dress she sports mid-story, does that come in my size?). Divided into short cliffhanging chapters, this story's got enough tall-tale gumbo to last for three nights. (7 and up)

If you have a taste for a little more Cajun flavor, follow-up with Little Pierre: A Cajun Story from Louisiana by Robert D. San Souci, illustrated by David Catrow (Harcourt), a good old fashioned folktale that's got a little bit of trickster mixed in with a little bit of Lazy Jack. (6 and up) Also notable and new is The Tale of the Swamp Rat by Carter Crockett, a debut animal chapter book drama set in the swamplands of Florida, with an environmental flavor. C'est si bon! (10 and up)

Magic Window series
published by Running Press

Good things come in small packages, and that is the case with this clever little bunch of board books. I have to confess, after looking at so many books it's hard to be surprised, but this series got a real "wow!" out of me and everyone who has seenit. Pull the tab on the side of each page and see drab acetate pictures come to life in, well, technicolor! Not unlike the effect Dorothy has when she leaves her house in Kansas and enters Oz! A fun way to introduce concepts. Opposites was the favorite because it was so straightforward and the content made the most sense in this change-o-range-o-ree context, but if you want more where that came from, check out Shapes , Trucks , Animals , Colors and Numbers . These fit very nicely into a small child's hands, and equally well into a small child's stocking. (birth and up)

The Journey of Oliver K. Woodman
by Darcy Pattison, illustrated by Joe Cepeda
published by Harcourt

Uncle Ray in South Carolina can't make the trip to visit Tameka in California, so he builds a wooden man to take his place. Jack Kerouac has nothing on this guy! Track his travels through this story told in letters and travel through the abundant, quirky illustrations, oils over acrylic that have a bold matte look. What a great story to help children to study the states and map skills, and you'll be tempted to send a Woodman of your own out on the road!) (7 and up)

Otto: the Story of a Mirror
by Ali Bahrampour
published by Farrar Straus Giroux

Otto has a very stable job at Topper's hat store, reflecting back the customers as they try on chic chapeaus. Unfortunately, Otto the Mirror is restless, dreaming of travelling around the world and perhaps getting an eyeful (or mirror-ful) of the exotic Roodle Tree, which grows only on the far-off Isle of Koodle. To distract and amuse himself, he creatively interprets the reflections of the customers, which infuriates the boss's best customer and leads to a chase scene that could rival the mayhem of a Warner Brother's cartoon. Before a shattering fate can beseige our hero, a remarkable twist takes place which carries Otto and his lucky readers to places thought otherwise unreachable. One of the most astonishingly romantic, creative and offbeat books of this or any year, Bahrampour follows in the cartoon tradition of Seymour Chwast. Children will love choosing which hat from Mr. Topper's store is the favorite (hmmm, is it the Chimney Hat of the Alligator Head Hat?) and will pore over the dada-delightful double-page spread in which Otto makes his escape through a busy city street. Otto's spirit is unbreakable, and the talent here is unmistakable, reflecting the best and worst of human nature. A shining debut. (5 and up)

Moo Cow, Kaboom!
by Thacher Hurd
published by HarperCollins

This books starts with a bang as Moo Cow is abducted by a Space-Cowboy named Zork who has designs on the rootin'est tootin'est headline act at the Intergalactic Rodeo. But when Zork tries to force his dogie to git along, Moo Cow puts on a surprising show of her own. Moo Cow is the best bovine to hit children's lit since Munro Leaf's Ferdinand (what a couple they'd make!), and if you've ever wondered what happened to the cow that jumped over the moon, here['s your answer. A zany mix of collage and cartoon, Thacher Hurd follows in the tradition of Robert Kraus's first rate slapstick and kid-appealing art. Be sure to check of the zigs and zickens , too. (3 and up)

Amelia Bedelia, Bookworm
by Herman Parish, illustrated by Lynn Sweat
published by Greenwillow

Released in celebration of Amelia Bedelia's 40th birthday, this book appropriately celebrates the mishaps of our favorite addled housekeeper in the context of the library. As the branch librarian nervously awaits the arrival of her boss, Amelia Bedelia wreaks her customary havoc by misunderstanding everything possible, to the point that she even drives off with the bookmobile, tells a patron that Thesauruses are extinct and nearly causes a mutiny in the children's room over free bookmarks. This is our cue to open up the craft drawer and follow suit; a reading of this funny, far-fetched story book followed by an afternoon making homemade bookmarks might just be the perfect way to celebrate Children's Book Week. Limited vocabulary makes this a confidence-building choice for emergent readers as well. (6 and up)

Mary Had a Little Ham
by Margie Palatini,
illustrated by Guy Francis
published by Hyperion

A star is born in Stanley Snoutowksy, Mary's corker of a porker who has his sights set firnly on the footlights of Broadway…after all, if he can make it there, he can make it anywhere! Unfortunately, fame is fickle for this precocious pig, and like so many undiscovered talents Stanley ends up settling for jobs slinging hash. Mary does what she can to encourage her pet, but will it be enough to keep Stanley from coming back to the farm? A must for any Broadway Musical aficianado (my favorite page includes posters from all the hits, such as Beauty and the Bacon, The Loin King, Oinklahoma and South Pigcific), this book along with her other latest, Bad Boys (about two wolves in sheep's clothing on the lam…ouch!) firmly establishes the author as Prime Ministress of Punnery. While some of the jokes may go over many children's heads, the premise alone is phat. (7 and up)

Please note, Stanley Snoutowsky is not the only barnyard Broadway baby. Clorinda by Robert Kinerk, illustrated by Steven Kellogg (Simon and Schuster) is a bovine with enough brio to think that she can join the ballet. Getting an agent is no piece of cake, and auditions are audacious, but Clorinda perseveres. When her debut turns out to be slightly different than she had dreamed, it will take a imagination and the love of her friends to make the situation pirouette in her favor. Particularly graceful verse make this book a pleasure to read aloud, and Steven Kellogg's illustrations are always so full of busy detail that children will do the happy-dance. (Kellogg's fans should also check out his other recent release, Jimmy's Boa and the Bungee Jump Slam Dunk by Trinka Hakes Noble, sequel to the classic The Day Jimmy's Boa Ate the Wash.) No shortage of cardiovascular exercise in Steven Kellogg's books, that's for sure! (5 and up)

The Animal Hedge
by Paul Fleischman, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline
published by Candlewick

"There once was a farmer whose heart glowed like a hot wood stove with the love of animals." When hard times fall upon the farm, however, the farmer and his three hardworking sons are forced to sell the animals and move into much smaller quarters, and the father can only find solace by creating topiaries from the nearby bushes. Without the farm to leave his sons, the boys must find a trade, and it is the hedge that surrounds their modest home that reveals their callings to them. When the boys return home, they are able to use their success to support their father, reciprocating the gift of support and acceptance that his gentle ways gave to them. A beautiful, straightforward story that depicts powerful men without machismo, and measures success by the weight of a heart instead of a wallet. Ibatoulline's emulation of nineteenth century folk art in gouache, without thoughtful borders and embellishments all worn as mellow as cherry wood, makes this book all the more satisfying. (8 and up)

Wishes for You
by Tobi Tobias, illustrated by Henri Sorensen
published by HarperCollins

There are so many things we wish for our children, and this lovely book puts many of them into words. "I hope you will learn how to make things with your own hands." "I hope you will be lucky." "I hope you will love to read." (Heart be still!) Declarative sentences make up the well-chosen text, a whole childhood's worth of birthday candles blown out, and a last wish that will catch your heart in your throat. Beautiful brushtrokes celebrate togetherness on every page, and I appreciated that many boys are part of the gentle, loving scenes. This is a perfect book to welcome anyone into the world, or to take a moment to celebrate your hopes for someone who is already here. (birth and up)

Halleluljah Handel
by Douglas Cowling, illustrated by Jason Walker
published by Scholastic

The "Hallelujah Chorus" is one of the most recognizable pieces in classical music, and this book is the result of the author's question, what inspired it? Here is a fictitious account of Handel's run-in with a young orphan boy with a gift for singing, a bit wordy but with enough suspense and villains and even an occasional fainting spell that kept listeners all ears. Realistic illustrations add grace and atmosphere. The story is based on the contributions Handel really did make to the Foundling Hospital, the first orphanage and school in London. Handel's Messiah was composed and performed in order to raise money for this special place where children living on the streets could begin a new life. "And so every time we hear that wonderful chorus, especially at Christmastime, we are reminded that the spirit of love and humanity will always conquer fear and poverty." Hallelujah! (8 and up) Also of interest: Beethoven Lives Upstairs by Barbara Nichol, illustrated by Scott Cameron.

Fancy That!
by Esther Hershenshorn, illustrated by Megan Lloyd
published by Holiday House

Pippin Biddle, "left-handed limner and fancy painter," is having a heck of a time supporting himself and three orphaned sisters with his artwork. It seems that his "correct likenesses" are displeasing to his subjects, now why could that be? At this rate, there is no way he can keep his promise that the family will be reunited in a home of their own by Christmas. Pip keeps his courage by sending portaits of Biscuit, the family dog and Pip's companion, to his sisters. Upon returning to his town, he heads to the poorhouse where he expects to find his siblings, but the limner's work has inspired his sisters in a way he cannot have predicted. Besides being an imaginative flight about how the first Christmas wreaths might have been created, it's an elegant story about how our encouragement of one another can pay in unexpected coin. The 19th century egg tempera technique used throughout is sumptuous and opulent, and deserves to be discovered by all young eyes and discussed with all young artists. (6 and up)

Evie and Margie
by Bernard Waber
published by Houghton Mifflin

Evie and Margie are the best of friends. They do everything together : they ride bikes, they play ball, they even dream together. But when the choice part of Cinderella comes up in the class play, only one girl can have the role, and the friendship is tested. Evie gives Margie an acting lesson, teaching her to cry by remembering something very, very bad. Margie doesn't have anything bad to remember, and when she makes something up, she manages to scare herself. Jealousy flares, and that feeling may be the scariest of all. Waber has a special gift for portaying realistic situations without forgoing the humor, and this is one story that goes far in showing children that when we celebrate the accomplishments of others, well, we have that much more to celebrate! From the author of Ira Sleeps Over . (6 and up)

Bill in a China Shop
by Katie Weaver, illustrated by Tim Raglin
published by Bloomsbury USA

A well-intentioned bovine with discriminating taste in teacups makes a bit of a mess of things in a fine china store. The expressiveness is expansive; you will surely gasp along with Bill as his tail tips a pile of platters…and ohhh, that quavering lower lip! Ever see a cow cower, or a grown bull cry? We've all been there, done that when it comes to being the oaf and feeling embarrassed about it, but luckily for Bill, three empathetic old ladies come to his rescue when the storekeep lowers the boom. Pen and ink that emulates Victorian engravings and rhyming couplets gives this book a funny, mannered feel, and the extra helping of forgiveness in the tea will runneth over into the hearts of the children who read this book. Very fine! (6 and up)

Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See?
by Bill Martin Jr.,
illustrated by Eric Carle
published by Henry Holt

Endangered animals are the focus of this latest addition to Bill Martin Jr.'s series (Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? and Polar Bear, Polar Bear What Do You Hear?) and Eric Carle lends his masterful touch to the menagerie. Unfortunately, the text does not have the pleasing rhythm of the others in the series, but this is compensated for by piquing the children's interest with exciting names of animals such as the macaroni penguin and spider monkey. The dark blue double-page spread that reads "Dreaming child, dreaming child, what do you see?" is destined to be as classic an image in children's book illustration as Sendak's wild rumpus, and cleverly makes this as appropriate a read for bedtime as it is for classtime. (3and up)

Curse in Reverse
by Tom Coppinger,
illustrated by Dirk Zimmer
published by Atheneum

Agnezza the witch wanders through the small hamlet of Humburg, looking for some shelter and a bite to eat. Selfish Mrs. Raff refuses her, and is given the Curse of the Silent Night. Rude Mr. Fooss rejects her, and is put under The Curse of the One-eyed Jack. When childless Mr. and Mrs. Tretter recieve her with open arms, they are chagrined when, upon their departure, she lays a Curse of the One-Armed Man upon them. Why did she do that? Their alarm grows as they see the curses of their neighbors come to unfortunate and surprising fruition. Little do they know that Agnezza has another trick up her sleeve when it comes to rewarding kindness! A funny folktale that's formalistically flawless, peppered perfectly with Zimmer's zany cross-hatched line drawings. Share this charmer anytime of year, and you'll have to decide for yourself if repeated readings are a curse…or a curse in reverse! (6 and up)

The Squeaky, Creaky Bed
by Pat Thompson,
illustrated by Niki Daly
published by Doubleday

Each time a boy goes to the country to visit his grandparents, the squeaky, creaky bed keeps him awake at night, and crying "Waaugh! Waaugh! Waaugh!" Each time, the grandparents reassure him and get him a different pet to keep him company, until the next visit, when the squeaky, creaky bed keeps both the child and the animals awake! It is not until a common-sense parrot is added to the melee that the problem is solved, winding the story down to satisfying closure and a sweet goodnight. What a cacophany rings through out the book, more places for children to join in than I can count; the joyful noise of a choral reading waiting to happen! The loose lines of the artwork are comical; get a load of grandpa's "ying-yang" pajamas! Whether you're looking for a grandparent story, something slightly spooky, a bedtime bonanza or a classroom chant, this book has got it all shoved under the old squeaky, creaky bed. (5 and up)

The Skeleton in the Closet
by Alice Schertle, illustrated by Curtis Jobling
published by HarperCollins

When I first looked at this book, I thought, "oh, ho-hum, another skeleton-y Halloween book," and I only mention that in order to say, folks, this is not just another Halloween book. A little skeleton is thrillingly, chillingly following a harrowed tyke up the stairs (counting stairs adds to the suspense)…in order to…raid his closet! (He's a modest little skeleton, after all). Children will laugh out loud when they see the funky duds this dude picks out! Skeletons may not have tongues, but luckily you do, so you can try on this aboslutely delicious language, oh, goodness ghostness, I hadn't had this much fun with an itty-bit of rhythm and rhyme since Dr. Seuss. A former elementary school teacher, this author knows how to write a story that screams "feltboard!" and kids will enjoy dressing their own homemade skeletons. If you're looking for a shivery story to share with kids that delivers a little trick and a lot of treat, this is one you'll all enjoy right down to your bones. Like the skeleton in the story, you've really got to try it on for size! (4 and up)

by Eric Rohmann
published byKnopf

A boy with a pumpkin for a head is the odd premise for an equally odd story about a boy who misplaces his noggin, but, as children are prone to such disasters, they may find a kindred spirit. After a series of adventures that would impress even Andersen's Tin Soldier, the journey lands him back with his own clan. The strength of the book by the illustrator of last year's gold-medal winning My Friend Rabbit is in it's design, small and square and bold with its boxt relief print illustration, perfectly peculiar as befitting the season that brought us Halloween. But this is more parable than scare-able, as the mother admonishes the son with who she has been reunited: "you know, the world will always be difficult for a boy with a pumpkin for a head." I can hear the spirits of so many homework-forgetting boys resound, "Amen." (6 and up)

Little Brown Bear Won't Go to School!
by Jane Dyer
published by Little, Brown

Every child has those days where they simply don't want to go to school, and Little Brown Bear is no exception. "I want a job," he complains, and sneaks off in puruit of one instead of going to class. It seems he doesn't have the aptitude to work at at the restaurant, the contrsuction site, the knitting or the barber shop. Is there any place where his skills match the job he has to do? This gentle watercolor illustrations feature a menagerie of animal characters that makes the story extra fun. The story plays on the fantasy of so many children to work as the grown-ups do, while celebrating the special work that children do every day. Don't be absent for this one! (6 and up)

Other stories with class this season include First Day by Dandi Daley Mackall, illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke (Harcourt), which is everything you could want in a first picture book about school. Pictures as colorful as a box of 64 crayons depict a world of activity and comraderie, while cheerleading verse gears children up for the special first day, and all the days that will follow. (4 and up) Older children will be revitalized by The Best Class Picture Ever by Denis Roche (Scholastic), which deals interestingly with the common situation of being in-between teachers. Here it is, picture day, and the class pet is missing and the children don't even have a substitute. No wonder Olivia can't gather the gumption to grin! It's up to Mr. Click the photographer and Olivia's classmates to find a way to turn that frown upside down, and in doing so, Mr. Click discovers some competencies he didn't know he had. Listeners will have fun locating Elvis (the guinea pig) in each of the rowdy pictures, and smile at the surprise ending whether or not they say "cheese!" (6 and up)

Unique Monique
by Maria Rousaki,
illustrated by Polina Papanikolaou
published by Kane/Miller

With a bow to Kevin Henkes' Lily's Purple Plastic Purse and Peggy Rathmann's Ruby the Copycat, here is Unique Monique, the latest in a long and illustrious line of young ladies who are trying to break the mold. Hard work for Monique, consistently squelched by her principal at school, who do not seem to appreciate the fashionable findings from the old attic costume trunk. It seems Monique will have to conform unless she can come up with something to set her apart that even the school can't say no to. (6 and up)

Stanley Birdbaum in Crazy Hair Day by Barney Saltzberg (published by Candlewick) suffers from an opposite problem when he confuses "Crazy Hair Day" with "School Picture Day," making his multicolored mohawk more of a hair-don't than a hair-do. Even school spirit can't save him now…or can it? This is an excellent story about what it means to be a community, and how classmates can offer support through acceptance. (6 and up)

Maisy's Rainbow Dream
by Lucy Cousins
published by Candlewick

Do you know what I just love about Lucy Cousin's artwork? The sheer point-ability of it all. No other illustrator offers so many opportunities to take a toddler in your lap, point out things and say, "What's that? What's that?" There are plenty of things to point at here in this color concept book that is nearly as big as a toddler (14 inches tall!), as Maisy goes to bed and dreams about a red ladybug, a yellow bee, a green leaf. It's easy to find all sorts of interesting things in these bold and cheerful tempera illustrations, and after preschoolers pay a visit to Maisy's Rainbowland, they may enjoy painting their own tempera dreams. (2 and up)

Charming Opal
by Holly Hobbie
published by Little, Brown

Welcome Opal to Woodcock Pocket, the home of piggies Toot and Puddle. When this little houseguest loses a tooth, the cousins stay awake an make sure that the Tooth Fairy appears, and even design a costume to impersonate her should the need arise. When they oversleep, it seems like a little faith will have to go a long way, and luckily, it does! "Charming" is the operative word here, as masterful illustrator Holly Hobbie manages to convey so much exuberance within each visual vignette that she lays her paintbrush on. Could she actually be using real sunshine as an artist's medium? It wouldn't surprise me a bit. This little piggy went to the bookshelf and lit it up! (4 and up)

Cat and Mouse: A Delicious Tale
by Jiwon Oh
published by HarperCollins

Cat and mouse are roomates and best friends…until mischievious monkey drops down and offers cat, of all things, a cookbook. Suddenly, Cat's goombah is looking especially gourmet. Cat can't stop envisioning the different delicious ways he might be prepared, and a slightly gruesome double-page spread suggests mouse in a variety of poses, including taco, potsticker, and even in an ice cream cone. The illustrations clearly have a Japanese aesthetic, with a setting of pagodas, mountains and cherry blossoms, and cat takes a decidedly Eastern tack to tackle his snack attack: he climbs a mountain and meditates on his contemplated misdeed till he goes a bit kooky and is rescued by her forgiving friend. The humor in this book is definitely dark, but the dramatic "Tom and Jerry" quality of the plot with a twist is sure to turn on kids who need to turn off Cartoon Network . The graphically sumptuous computer-generated artwork is so crisp and smooth, you will probably find yourself running your hands over the pages. Ultimately, this quirky book is very refreshing, with many elements that are completely original and will catch you off guard. Though not as "cutesy" as it may seem at first glance, the ending sums up what the dedication of this book suggests: "for friendship." (4 and up)

Frog Belly Rat Bone
by Timothy Basil Ering
published by Candlewick

Gardening books are in season, and this is one title that kids are sure to dig. In this midst of a concrete jungle, a little boy finds a mysterious box filled with treasure; well, actually, only tiny grey specks, but the mysterious note promises they will be treasure, once they are planted in the ground. Patience is a virtue that the boy does not posess, so after a few minutes he abandons the treasure, only to find it has been stolen in the morning. He designs a sort of post-modern scarecrow. Frog Belly Rat Bone enlightens the boy on the ways of treasure and brings the thieves around as well. The drama of the story is enough to keep any child firmly planted, but the sketchy, scribble-scrabbly artwork is cluttered and wild and utterly spontaneous, and exactly why children have been gathering in clumps around this book like pollen to a bee's posterior. Children also enjoy chiming in to Frog Belly's refrain: " Frog Belly Rat Bone,/One, Two, Three…/We must be patient,/andthen we'll see!" This parable is sure to be a perennial favorite, and you'd better believe I can't wait to overstuff an old sweater and underwear to make my own classroom Frog Belly Rat Bone to watch over a windowsill garden. I hope you will send photos of yours as well! (5 and up)

A little more conservative but just as important to your reading garden is Pick, Pull, Snap! : Where Once a Flower Bloomed by Lola M. Schaefer, illustrated by Lindsay Barret George (Greenwillow). The beauty of this book is that it follows several plants from pollination, to seed, to blossom, and then each page folds out horizontally to reveal the fruit, a little trick that really captures the spirit of anticipation that goes into the garden. Each illustration is full of information and elegance a la Ruth Heller, and includes multicultural depictions of hard-working young gardener s enjoying their harvest. The vocabulary presented in context is absolutely outstanding, and a glossary is also included. Mention of the cyclical nature of plants is also made, rounding out the concept nicely, and simple directions for growing the plants is also included. Pick, Pull, Snap! offers a tremendous opportunity to add non-fiction into a primary storytime, but frankly I don't see how you can possibly read this book without a little taste of all the healthy goodies mentioned, so plan a petit reading picnic to go along with this fresh pick. (5 and up)

Two Old Potatoes and Me by John Coy, illustrated by Carolyn Fisher (Knopf) follows a father and daughter into the garden to plant a couple of old sprouty spuds. As the pair keep their eyes peeled for signs of growth, their relationship blossoms. The illustrations are definitely a standout. Look at all those wild potatoes in the ground! What fun! Broad, bumpy fonts and generous artwork capture the feel of a garden landscape, This is a very special book about renewal; the allusions to joint custody are subtle but still proves that no garden grows without a lot of love. Besides a joyful story and stellar pictures, the mashed potato recipe at the end alone makes this book worth planting this on your shelf, (who knew what a little nutmeg could do?) and be sure to peek at the potato-head portraits of the author and illustrator on the endpapers. (6 and up)

And finally, have you ever had something come up in your garden, and you're not sure what it is? Don't weed it too quickly! When Britta plants the seed given to her by the funny little man with a horse and cart in Mirabelle by Astrid Lindgren and illustrated by Swedish treasure Pija Lindenbaum (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), up grows her truest wish: a doll that can walk and talk and be her friend! Wow, that's some gardening, and some imagination, but what else can we expect from Astrid Lindgren, the author of Pippi Longstocking? (5 and up)

by Janet Stevens
and Susan Stevens Crummel
published by Harcourt

Hoo-wee! Ready for a real down-home read-aloud? Pull up a chair like our armadillo narrator does to to tell us this hare-raising story of a dumb bunny who isn't happy being himself. Oh, no, Jackalope wanted to be as fearsome as longhorn and horned toad, so when his fairy godrabbit appears (wearing a fetching tossed salad gown), she grants him horns like an antelope. Despite Jackalope's big ears, he doesn't listen very well when she advises Jack to tell the truth or his horns will…well, let's just say Jackalope's got the biggest problem since Pinnochio. After a close shave with coyote, Jackalope ends up fighting a whole new battle of Bighorn when his friend is in peril. Between Jacaklope's twangy dialect, the painful punnery of his fairy partner and armadillo's verse, there's something that will appeal to every audience. Part legend, part fable, part tall tale, this book is a southwestern recipe for some serious storytime stew, and makes for rip-roaring reader's theater as well. The fake ending will have listeners begging for you to turn one more page, and see that you do turn to the very end to find factual information about all the animals named in the book. These award winners' latest sister act definitely pulls out all the stops. (5 and up)

Players in Pigtails
by Shana Corey,
illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon
published by Scholastic

Did you know that the song "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" was written about a girl?! Well, it was! Baseball was a big hit with girls all over the nation in the 1940's. The author mixes that fact with a dash of fiction to tell the story of one young woman who wasn't good at baking cakes or dancing with boys, but could bean a ball out of the park and did so thanks to the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. The writing is as bubbly as a phosphate and the illustrations are nothing short of fabulous, capturing the era perfectly with charming, folksy artwork. The period detail is especially delicious as she dons her figures in an array of fashions that even Barbie would envy. Readers can root for poor Katie flopping in Home-Ec class surrounded by June-Cleaver wanna-bes, or Katie belly-flopped on her bed in her baseball PJ's, poring over her most valuable trading cards while her parents tsk-tsk in the background. Girls can also share Katie's thrill looking at the entrance of Wrigley Field with girls just like her pouring in. Here's a "tomboy" that will hit a home run in every girl's heart, shared in a throwback style that is way above average. We hope to see a lot more from this team in the future. (6 and up)

How I Became a Pirate
by Melinda Long,
illustrated by David Shannon
published by Harcourt

What boy wouldn't want to take a trip aboard a pirate ship? The formidable Braid Beard drops anchor right about where young Jeremy Jacob is playing in the sand, and, spotting his pail and shovel, recognizes him as a talented treasure-digger. Of course, Jeremy Jacob says "aye" to joining the crew and before long the waves carry him far from his parents (who don't seem to notice, being so busy with the new baby and other grown-up business anyway). Life among the pirates is full of yo-ho-ho's, after all, "nobody tells pirates when to go to bed, take a bath, or brush their teeth…Pirates don't do anything they don't want to, except for maybe swabbing the decks." This may be well and good for a while, but pirates also don't get tucked in or have bedtime stories. Jeremy Jacob cleverly gets his mateys to take him back ashore without compromising his squashbuckling reputation, and the story ends on the satisfying and comforting note that marks masterpieces of children's lit. The ambassador of boyhood (and Caldecott author/illustrator of No, David!) is at it again, the raunchy and rollicking artwork has a marked energy and movement, a bit like N.C. Wyeth's more mischieveous younger brother. The story is more silly than scary, but with a dead man's chest full of all the vocabulary you will need to celebrate National Talk Like a Pirate Day on September 19. Avast! (4 and up)

Karate Girl
by Mary Leary
published by Farrar Straus Giroux

Hiiii-yah! Dealing with bullies calls for desperate measures, and a big sister enrolls in a karate class in the hopes of being able to protect her llittle brother. Fantasies of retaliation fill the girl's head, but are soon dissipated by the many skills that are required of her, from breathing techniques to the more involved and choreographed kata. When the time comes for combat, the girl is able to show her strength in an unexpected way, and in doing so proves to be a mentor to her brother. An appealing story that tracks one girl's introduction to the martial arts, and offers a bit of wisdom worth it's weight in black belts: bow to the universe, and the universe bows back! (6 and up)

Roller Coaster
by Marla Frazee
published by Harcourt

Too afraid to go on the roller coaster? Can you handle the loop-de-loops? The stomach-dropping dips? The screaming turns? Well, you can enjoy it all and still not lose your cookies by reading this book, a vicarious experience that allows readers to climb on board a rollercoaster car along a motley crew of five other couples. Some are reticent, some are macho, some are set to go, but the true character of the riders will be revealed once the ride jerks into motion, the point of no return! Great expression, excitement, movement and action are remarkably captured with every twist of the ride and turn of the page. At the end of the gambol, the little girl pleads for one more go-around, and so will the children who have this story shared with them. (5 and up)

The Witch's Children
by Ursula Jones,
illustrated by Russell Ayto
published by Henry Holt

Halloween is only one day a year. What do the witch's children do when it's not time for trick-or-treat? They go to the park, of course! And the children are as lovely as can be, behaving absolutely princely until they try to help Gemma retrive her toy boat from the pond. As each child takes a turn trying to help, the problem grows increasingly tricky. The best is for last, though, when the youngest child knows the real magic word: mom! Stylish line illustration is funny and distinctive, and the creative storyline will cast a spell over your storytime listeners. Enchanting! (4 and up)

Ready, Set, Go! and Circus Surprise
both by Sue Harris
illustrated by Ingela Peterson
published by Candlewick

Put your seat belt on, because this is one pop-up that will knock you out of your chair! The race around the world has just begun and Zing! Zow! WOW! One must resort to such onomatopoetic tactics in describing this paper engineering that means it when it says pop-UP; the first picture is of a little penguin en route to the moon in his red rocketship, and he flies far off the page. Hippo is not out of the running on his motorcycle, but Kangaroo in a hot-air balloon is not about to be outdone. Who will be the big winner? The reader is definitely the one who gets the prize here, as there is no transportation-loving little boy out there who won't go wiggy over this. These same friends can be revisited in Circus Surprise, which has the same high-flying effects and glitter-foil glitz. (3 and up)

The Trouble with Normal
by Cherise Mericle Harper
published by Houghton Mifflin

A boy encourages his best friend, a park squirrel named Finnegan, to pursue the his dream of becoming a Secret Service agent. To prove his undercover prowess, he prepares a report for the president, describing all the strange goings-on of Normal Towers, the boy's apartment building. Children will get a chance to peek through the windows as well, seeing the idiosynchratic behaviors that Finnegan sees, such as a neighbor performing sock puppet shows for his cat, one who carves Halloween pumpkins all year long, one who wears a dish towel as a cape. The president is so impressed that he calls Finnegan to Washington, thus instigating a tearful goodbye and a satisfying resolution to this story. Though perfectly zany, The Trouble with Normal succeeds on as many levels as there are floors in the apartment building; it is a terrific story about being supportive of friends, it explores the theme of moving, and it also recognizes the fun of urban living. This new talent's latest is her best. (6 and up)

My Hippie Grandmother
by Reeve Lindbergh,
illustrated by Abby Carter
published by Candlewick

Baby boomers, rejoice; here's a grandparent story that trades in grey hair and a cane for beads and banjos. In lilting rhyme, a little girl recounts all the fun things she does with her grandmother, such as peddling zucchini at the farmer's market, marching in a peaceful picket line at city hall, or just chilling with grandma's boyfriend. A bit brief, this book still manages to debunk a lot of myths about aging, and definitely celebrates the love-in that goes on everytime a child visits with an accepting adult. By bringing intergenerational stories into the twenty-first century, this book has a lot of flower power. (5 and up)

Miss Hunnicutt's Hat
by Jeff Brumbeau,
illustrated by Gail de Marcken
published by Orchard Books

The team that brought us the runaway bestsellerThe Quiltmaker's Gift is back, with an unconventional story deserving of equal success. We know from the first page, in which our eyes are treated to a twenty (yes, count 'em, twenty!) layer strawberry devil's food cake that there's a special occasion afoot. Indeed, the queen is going to pass through town, and to mark the occasion, Miss Hunnicutt (a woman who doesn't usually like to make a fuss and "always did what everyone wanted her to do") decides to don her new hat from Paris, which just happens to prominently feature a live chicken. This fashion faux pas ruffles a lot of feathers and ultimately causes a full-fledged riot in the town, with twenty-seven cats yowling up a tree, a woman wrapped in a shower curtain falling into the arms of the fire chief and a rather sticky accident involving the cake and a truck full of raspberry soda. When the mayor insists that she remove her chapeau or face arrest, Miss Hunnicutt is forced to assert her rights, and just in time…it turns out the queen has something in common with our heroine Hunnicutt. No author/illustrator team concocts such a rich and innovative landscape for their stories, absolutely exploding with flowers, people, animals, food, EV-erything. The busy illustrations nearly seem to pour from the pages and will warrant many sessions of laptime goggling for the whole family. A great fable about freedom of expression and individuality, this is another overwhelmingly generous offering from possibly the most creative team in children's picture books today. (5 and up)

Flora's Surprise!
by Debi Gliori
published by Orchard Books

A rabbit family who loves to garden each plants a different kind of seed, and Daddy offers a pot so little Flora can test her green thumb. Flora plants a brick, and declares, "I'm growing a house." Though her family tries to advise her to choose a seed with a higher success rate, Flora is stubborn, even as her siblings' harvest of flowers and vegetables fustrate her. Will her patience pay off? A clever story in the tradition of Ruth Krauss's classic The Carrot Seed, this satisfying story is as sunny and sweet as a summer garden. (4 and up)

Don't Let a Pigeon Drive the Bus!
by Mo Willems
published by Hyperion

The busdriver has left very clear instructions: don't let the pigeon drive the bus. From the thought balloon hovering over our little blue feathered friend, however, it is clear that this guy has only one thing on his mind. He starts by asking nicely, then cajoles, resorts to a little pouting, and then on to a full-fledged tantrum (sound familiar?). It's up to the listeners to join in the repartee and make it quite clear: the answer is still NO! The author is an Emmy-award winning writer and animator for Sesame Street, and this storyline does live in the neighborhood in another interactive classic, The Monster at the End of This Book: Starring Lovable, Furry Old Grover by Jon Stone. Another tell-tale sign of the author's past associations is that this book would also make a lovely puppet show. A clever, interactive comic book that's right on the pulse of what makes little kids laugh. (4 and up)

Tippy-Toe Chick, Go!
by George Shannon,
illustrated by Laura Dronzek
published by Greenwillow

What a bully that big old dog is, standing guard and snapping at the end if his rope, blocking the way between a chicken family and those delicious itty-bitty beans and potato bugs waiting for them in the garden! One chick tries reasoning, one chick tries scolding, but it's not until the smallest chick of all steps up that the problem is solved. The bold, naive art has a variety of framing expressing all different points of view, and is completely effective in conveying the tension between the worried poultry and the craven canine. Children will identify with the small hero and cheer him on! This is an action-packed preschool read, and proves that not all chicken are chicken-hearted! (3 and up)

My Name is Yoon
by Helen Recorvitz,
illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska
published by Farrar, Straus Giroux

Yoon is eager to please her parents and learn to write her letters in English, but her homesickness for Korea makes her willful. When her teacher asks her to write her name, instead she writes "cat," and "bird," and "cupcake," things she wishes she was instead of herself. Yoon's teacher indulges her, and waits. Slowly, as Yoon becomes more patient with herself and the others around her, she is able to make new friends and be herself in her new country. This is a sparse, effective story that will help children on all sides identify with the immigrant experience. The striking illustrations sometimes portray Yoon as alone in a wide landscape, and then the artist fills up the empty spaces the more at home she feels. "Yoon" means shining wisdom, and in this book, it certainly does. (5 and up)

Clarence the Copy Cat
by Patricia Lakin,
illustrated by John Manders
published by Doubleday

Clarence is a peace-loving kitty who refuses to catch mice, on principle. Unfortunately, this makes Clarence extremely unpopular with most storekeepers. Clarence wonders if he will ever find a place where he fits in, when a librarian takes him in and Clarence feels right at home, perching on the copy machine. When a mouse invades the bookshelves, though, what's a purrefctly pacifist feline to do? Knowing he doesn't want to leave his wonderful world of books, Clarence devises a series of plans, and luckily manages to prove that when it comes to conflict resolution, there's more than one way to skin a cat. Though timely, thanks to the cliffhanging plotline the theme is not the least bit overbearing. The comical illustrations overflow with personality and create sympathetic characters all around. This copycat is definitely an original! (5 and up)

Heaven's All-Star Band
by Don Carter
published by Knopf

"Improvisation./Syncopation./Jubilation./Good for Grandpa's circulation." Grandpa's in heaven now, dancing on a cloud to the music he most enjoyed in life. Jazz lovers, look out: there's Basie and Bird, Dizzy and Ella, Monk and Satchmo, Duke, Mingus and Lady Day…oooh yeah, you know you have to break out those records to give this book the play it deserves! Back on earth is the grandson, snapping his fingers to "salt peanuts, salt peanuts," thinking of his dear Grandpa Jack. (Yes, I cried!) A sentimental send-up to some of the last century's musical greats, this book also celebrates the connection that music can make between generations. Dimensional clay and paint and a sampling of nostalgic record covers make this book's illustrations extra snazzy. Biographical information about all the artists mentioned will bring readers both young and old into the fold; if you don't love and know jazz before you read and use this book, you definitely will be on the A-Train to doing so afterwards. (6 and up)

Punctuation Takes a Vacation
by Robin Pulver,
illustrated by Lynne Rowe Reed
published by Holiday House

Poor Mr. Wright plods along, trying to teach about punctuation marks, but when the frustrated fellow suggests "let's give punctuation a vacation," the underappreciated notations take him up on it, hopping a plane and leaving the class in a lurch. It turns out that writing is so hard to understand without those funny dots and dashes! When postcards arrive with crytic signatures, can Mr. Wright's students (and yours) figure out who each one is from? Leave it to clever Robin Pulver to take something as pedestrian as the period at the end of a sentence and infuse it with her signature zing. This attractive, funny book earns exclamation points all the way, and is a teacher's dream come true. Overheads of the illustrations will bring grammar lessons to life (unscramble the badly behaved punctuation in Mr. Rongo's room!), and children will love preparing their own punctuation postcards for a trip abroad to the bulletin board! Language arts has never been so lively. Also a nice end-of-year gift for teachers as they embark (hopefully) on a restful summer vacation. (7 and up) A Chapman Award Winner!

A Bunny for All Seasons
by Janet Schulman,
illustrated by Meilo So
published by Knopf

Beautiful, expressive watercolors hop along with an angora rabbit's year in the garden. So's genius with both brushstrokes and palette evokes all the heady succulence of the natural world. Never have pumkins looked so ripe, tomatoes looked so juicy, and the snow glittered so magically in the moonlight. Her figures are energetic and realistic, and capture both movement and personality. This simple story not only teaches children about the seasons, but celebrates the founding of a family. Yes it's small, but so is a strawberry, and this book is just as delicious! I know it is early to start talking Caldecott award, but this is a contender, and belongs in the library of every young child. (3 and up)

Read Anything Good Lately?
by Susan Allen and Jane Lindaman,
illustrated by Vicky Enright
published by Millbrook

You will be able to answer in a resounding affirmative to the above question after taking this A to Z tour of reading's hiding places. A little girl finds words in action everywhere she goes, whether she's reading recipes in the rocking chair, enjoying quotations in the quiet of a treetop, checking out gossip in the grocery line or my favorite, looking up information on the internet! Though you may recognize the illustrator from her earlier non-fiction, this is her first picture book, and she delivers the same inviting detail and enthusiasm as she did in Kathy Ross's inimitable series of children's craft titles. The words on these pages prove that words are everywhere in the modern world, and warrants a real-live scavenger hunt for reading occasions in your home or classroom. (6 and up)

Wonder Goal!
by Michael Foreman
published by Clarion

Just stepping out on to the field, all of the boys' imaginations are percolating with the dream of becoming a soccer star. The new boy that day will make a "wonder goal," kicking the ball in a way that is unstoppable to any goalie. Unfortunately, his dad is not there to see it. The story then fast forwards to the World Cup, and the boy, now grown, again gives it his best shot. Will his father be around to see it this time? As is Foreman's signature, this story is more complicated than it appears at first glance. As much a family story as a sports story, it is sure to speak reassuringly to a generation of overscheduled children whose working parents might not be there for every success… but are definitely there for some. "Fast-forwarding" is an interesting storytelling technique that warrants discussion with older language arts students as well. (7 and up)

Soccer fans may also enjoy the simple but high-spirited rhyme in Soccer Beat by Sandra Brug, illustrated by Elisabeth Moseng (McElderberry Books). A zooful of animals give it all they've got to make the goal, and the pages bounce by like a ball kicked by Pele. Give it a back-beat with some clapping and you've got a great choral rap worthy of a stadium chant. Teamwork is what makes this book score, and your sporty storytime crowd will go wild! (5 and up)

Why Do Kittens Purr?
by Marion Dane Bauer,
illustrated by Henry Cole
published by Simon and Schuster

Looking for a new bedtime story? Here you go. A little boy philosophically questions the mysteries of the animal kingdom, such as why lions roar and spiders spin webs, and answers his own questions, sometimes scientifically and sometimes not so. Though a wild imagination is evidently at play as the natural world springs to life in all rooms of his home, in the end the boy is tucked in safe and sound, and awakens to a new day full of new things to wonder about. Reminiscent of Ruth Krauss' classics (like A Hole is To Dig: A First Book of First Definitions and I'll Be You and You Be Me), this book has an authentic voice that hones in on the interesting interpretations children often rely upon. Clear and humorous pictures of the goggle-eyed boy will get your children giggling, and the story winds down nicely to an all-natural end. (5 and up)

Clarabella's Teeth
by An Vrombaut
published by Clarion

How would you like to be a crocodile and have to brush all those rows of teeth? Clarabella doesn't like it very much. While her animal friends are playing and having lunch and tumbling about, Clarabella is still brushing away. When she's finally done, it's time for bed! Don't shed any crocodile tears yet…her friends come up with a solution that will allow Clarabella to fight plaque and still have fun. Impatient preschool brushers will appreciate the amphibian's conflict, as well as the rambunctious illustrations that bounce from page to page. A silly storytime choice that will leave children smiling ear to ear. (3 and up)

by Robert Munsch,
illustrated by Michael Martchenko
published by Scholastic

Lauretta has decided that her wheelchair is too slow, and her mother obliges to take her shopping for a new one. Unfortunately, none of the choices suit the young hot-rodder, until the salewoman kindly offers to let her test drive a particularly soup-ed up model for a day. Lauretta's need for speed lands her a ticket from the local police along with a scolding from her mother, but when her brother cuts his finger, it's up to deliver him to the emergency room in a hurry. Robert Munsch is a master of combining completely outlandish situations with completely realistic dialogue, mercilessly tickling the funny bones of any listener; this title is one of his most exciting as well. The surprise ending and completely over-the-top illustration is guaranteed to end any story time with a wheely big laugh. (5 and up)

Ruby's Wish
by Shirin Yim Bridges,
illustrated by Sophie Blackall
published by Chronicle

Ruby was so named because she liked to wear red, the Chinese color of celebration, even on the most ordinary days. Ruby is set apart from the many children in her family in another way, too; she wants someday to attend the university instead of getting married. Though she studies on her abacus and practices her calligraphy with all her might and main alongside her boy cousins, a double-standard rears it's ugly head. What will grandfather do when teacher shows him the poem she has written about her circumstance? Clean lines filled in with colors as crisp and exciting as a firecracker evoke an ancient setting for a very liberated tale. On the last page is the best surprise of all, a photograph of the real Ruby, the author's grandmother! (6 and up)

One Beautiful Baby
by Martine Oborne,
illustrated by Ingrid Godon

Take one baby with a face as wide and sunny as a buttered bagel, and count on all ten fingers the wonderful things that make him so special. Throw four diapers! Bonk the stroller down seven steps! Open wide for nine juicy strawberries (apparently baby doesn't have allergies)! And finish off with a cozy nose-rubbing. This book will make your heart feel as soft as a receiving blanket, and should be received alongside as a baby shower gift. (birth and up)

The Kettles Get New Clothes
by Dayle Ann Dodds,
illustrated by Jill McElmurry

The canine Kettles are out for their annual clothes-shopping jaunt. What will it be this year? Paisley? Plaids? Stripes? Checks? Dots? Each exit from the dressing room reveals some confounding haute-couture that will leave read-aloud audiences laughing. Terrier salesman Monsieur Pip does not give up despite the Kettles' propensity for the plain, and there is hope yet as the baby Kettle delights in the more outlandish fashions. The colorful matte illustrations and broad double-page spreads with dividers that match the clothes are very fetching. In the tradition of Tomi Ungerer's Mellops series, readers will take this humorous family to heart. This is one book that will never go out of style on your children's bookshelf. (5 and up)

Mrs. Biddlebox
by Linda Smith,
illustrated by Marla Frazee

A cantankerous, frizzy-haired heroine rolls out of the wrong side of the bed, and is even grumpier when she discovers that the morning shares her disposition. So what does she do? The determined little damsel announces, "I will cook this rotten morning!/I will turn it into cake!/I will fire up my oven!/I will set the day to bake!" And in the end, she feasts on all the frump, licking her fingers with a smile. As was the case with When Moon Fell Down, Smith's rhymes are immaculate, creating a rhythm that every tongue will love to bounce to, and will surely become a memorized staple for many families. The illustrations are bewitching in their dark, swirling scratchiness. At first glance the pictures may seem simple, but in fact are extremely sophisticated. Look at the incredible jig around the hot stove to fully appreciate what a great performance this one woman show really is! The facial expressions throughout the book are uproarious, and children will also enjoy locating Biddlebox's pet duck on every page. By the end of the book, strange pastel stars luminate from the darkness, giving the story a reassuring aura of hopefulness. This story is sure to cause a mood swing for the better for your resident bellyacher. The saying goes, "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade," but the author and illustrator did one better: they made a great book. (4 and up)

Snowmen at Night
by Caralyn Buehner,
illustrated by Mark Buehner

Every wonder why, when you build a snowman, he never looks quite the same the next day? Why is that snowman all slumped down, with drooping arms and hat askew? The answer that this story suggests is that you'd look weary, too, if you partied as hearty as the frosty folk do! This wintertime rhyme is an invitation to a fete twice as fun as a ride in a one-horse open sleigh. There are so many charming details: snowmen sip ice-cold cocoa served by their mothers, make rotund snow angels, and skate in tandem. The silvery blue palette is so luminous, it is like viewing a magical nightime world through an icicle. (Your family may have already enjoyed Buehner's illustrations in the classic The Adventures of Taxi Dog). To make this book extra cool, there are hidden shapes painted in the landscapes, making this one read-aloud that will be enjoyed long after the snow has melted. (6 and up)

Snow Bears
by Martin Waddell,
illustrated by Sarah Fox-Davies

Frolic in the snow is the order of the day for these three darling bears, and the hoorays are heightened when Mommy Bear pretends to have lost her children. Who are these "snow bears" who seem to have taken their place? Making the best of it, each bear takes a turn choosing a game to play, and when Mommy Bear finally takes the snow bears in for hot toast, the warm fireside melts the snow from their fur and reveals her real babies. Readers could bask in the glow of a mother's love in Waddell's Owl Babies, and the theme is just as successfully carried out here, this time with more hair than feathers. The white snow powdered and clumped on the brown bears' fur will definitely give young 'uns the chilly-willies. Full of tumbles and cuddles, this is the coziest read of the season. (3 and up)

Whatever Wanda Wanted
by Jude Wisdom

Since Wanda's parents are so busy busy busy, they compensate by buying her anything she wants. Soon spoiled little Wanda has everything…except friends. One day, Wanda comes across a store she has never seen before (and goodness knows Wanda has been in all the stores!) and finds a beautiful kite that the shopkeeper warns against flying, using verse for emphasis: "A truly remarkable kite, but beware/ It can do horrible things when it's up in the air!" Wanda ignores his advice and is carried off to a tint desert island where she is marooned without her stuff! "She bit her lip and her eyes filled with tears. 'THERE'S NO TV!'" How Wanda manages to survive in the face of every consumer's worst nightmare is the material of a great and timely fable, which this is. The wild artwork verges of the psychedelic, and Wanda's tantrums are depicted in full red-faced double-paged force. Wanda's scheming expressions as a baby are a scream. The second and third graders loved this story unanimously, making it the read-aloud they wanted and one of's best books of the year. (6 and up)A Chapman Award Winner!

Party Animals
by Katie Davis

Ant is blue (literally) because he didn't get a party invitation! Why not? Follow him through a barnyard countdown, and to the answer to his teary query. The surprise ending is as satisfying to unwrap as a birthday gift. Unpretentious artwork features livestock in all sorts of lively colors, and they contribute comic-book one-liners throughout. This book lends itself easily to classroom extensions: for a bulletin board, encourage children to poster paint a zany barnyard, and add an ant with funny cartoon captions! Or, make masks and don party hats for your own animal party! (5 and up)

The Ticky-Tacky Doll
by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Harvey Stevenson

"This is very sad, but it is the way of the world," the author informs us, "when children go to school, toys are left behind." This is especially hard for a little girl inseperable from a doll made from scratch just for her by her Grandmama. The situation receives realistic treatment in that the girl is not easily distracted from her loss. Grandmama has special insight and is able to resolve the problem in a way that will cheer both character and reader! An excellent book not only about the start of school, but about the power of empathy. Children who hear this story will take heart that grown-ups can help them solve their problems. (4 and up)

In a similar vein is Dahlia, by Barbara McClintock, in her signature engraving style. Aunt Edme gives Charlotte the gift of a delicate doll, which Charlotte promptly proceeds to include in tree-climbing, mud-cake making, wagon-races and the favorite game of them all, toss-up-in-the-air-and-land-in-a-heap. The illustrations subtly reflect the expression of the doll's increased delight in being included in the rough-housing. But how will her condition be received by Aunt Edme? A delightful toy-tale made especially funny by the liberated view juxtaposed with the Victorian artwork. Miss McClintock, you can do no wrong! (5 and up)

All You Need for a Snowman
by Alice Schertle,
illustrated by Barbara Lavallee

It all starts with one small snowflake…perfectly appropriate, because this book is as fresh as a snowflake on your tongue! Crisp, stylized illustrations (by the same artist who did the arctic tale Mama, Do You Love Me?) depict step-by-step the process of building a snowman with a bevvy of friends. This spirit of community climaxes in a delightful surprise conclusion. Huge creations at one point require the reader to tilt the book vertically to fully appreciate the grandeur, and the snowmen's garb is sure to make you smile. A snowy-day read aloud for every primary classroom, and great for emergent readers as well. (4 and up)

by Coleen Salley,
illustrated by Janet Stevens

One of the country's finest storytellers is both narrator and artist's model for this retelling of a classic "noodlehead" story, in which a foolish little 'possum with a human family (a la Stuart Little) takes instructions a little too literally (a la Amelia Bedelia). While following in the footsteps of time-honored oral and literary tradition, this story marches to it's own drummer with it's strong southern voice and darling diapered anti-hero. Children will love the chance to scold along. Simply tremondas! (5 and up)

The Real, True Dulcie Campbell
by CynthiaDeFelice,
illustrated by R.W. Alley

Surely, there was some sort of mix-up at birth. Obviously, Duclie is truly the Princess Dulcinea, robbed from a jewel-encrusted crib by a wicked fairy and now being forced to clean the chicken coop and other chores around the farm. Dulcie informs her family that she must "go now to live the life I was born for," and promptly sets off to lands afar where her palace (a.k.a. the haybarn) awaits her, and where she can research the life of royalty. Upon closer scrutiny, however, the crown is not all it's cracked up to be. Besides being a great family love story, this book perfectly captures the histrionics of an imaginative little girl, the illustrations cleverly showing life how Dulcie wants it to be in gilded frames overlapping the homlier homefront. This book also gives a respectful nod to the important role books play in the lives of such characters, both real and imagined. (7 and up)

Little Buggy
by Kevin O'Malley

A ladybug learns to fly with the help of his daddy. Comic-book curmudgeons in the corner are no match for the story's soaring message of if at first you don't succeed, fly…or try…again! The artwork from an insect-eye perspective is especially notable, with opulent, high-toned colors that would make even a butterfly do a double-take. A nice compliment to Robert Kraus's classic Leo the Late Bloomer. (5 and up)

That Pesky Rat
by Lauren Child

Child is famous for her Clarice Bean picture book series, but her latest is a departure from her mod-mademoiselle. Rat smells, but it's not his fault…it's the dirt that does it. Anyway, he's sure he could be just as good a house pet as Pierre the chinchilla, Oscar the Siamese cat, Nibbles the lop-eared circus rabbit or Miss St. Clair the Scottie dog who likes to spend evenings doing jigsaw puzzles. With the help of an understanding pet-store owner, the rat is able to find someone open-minded (and nearsighted) enough to give him the home and the name he's always wanted. Bold line drawings and snazzy collages compliment the book's urban flavor. Whether or not you like rats, this attractive book will be a pet read-aloud in your home or classroom. (5 and up)

If you still have animal attraction, also check out Hooper Has Lost His Owner! by Marsha White, a touch-and-feel pull-tab book that really didn't need all those bells and whistles (although they are mighty fun). The cheerful illustrations stand by themselves as we follow a misplaced mutt around town in search of his master. Also employing a collage technique, read them both and compare, and then let children cut-and-paste their own collage "found" posters featuring their favorite pets! (4 and up)

Mannekin Pis: A Simple Story of a Boy Who Peed on a War
by Vladimir Radunsky

You have probably seen a replica of the statue somewhere, sometime: a little cherub taking a wee-wee-wee with the help of fountain technology. Well, here's the number one story about a boy who lives in a small beautiful town with his loving parents, only to have it ripped apart by The War, fought by clownish green-faced little goons weilding weapons and slathering tongues. No more playing, no more flowers, no more laughter, and where did the boy's mother and father go? But before he can deal with these issues, he must deal with a particular problem that is pressing …on his bladder. The story is sheer absurdity and chaos, in the tradition of Alfred Jarry's Ubu Roi . Still, there is something truly bittersweet about the narrative. Maybe because it is so easy to cease the fighting and reunite the young pisser with his parents in the book, we can only wish that we could have such perspective of our wars at ready in real life, or that we could reunite the victims with their families as easily. Inspired by the real "Mannekin Pis" or "peeing boy" statue in Belgium, enough readings of this odd little treasure by thinking people should help to stop trouble before it starts. (All ages)

It seems that Mr. Radunsky has been a very busy boy, creating two masterpieces in one publication year. In Ten, Radunsky helps children navigate their way through the mysterious world of romance via two newlywed armadillos. Using all sorts of clever anachronisms ("Mr. amd Mrs. Armadillo like to sit n the couch and hug"), the affectionate couple soon find that they will be sharing their love with ten offspring ("hmm, a pink one! No matter, we'll love him anyway"). Hilarious scenes of Mr. Armadillo rushing his preposterously pregnant wife to the hospital or the doctor beset by the bevvy of babies in the delivery room are at once subversive and shrewd, and will tickle the funnybone of both young and old. Just when you think the party's over, in march aunts and uncles bearing potties, tutus, elephants and other bare necessities. As Armadillo Planned Parenthood quips on the back cover, "This book is a must for all those who are planning to have children but don't know how to count." (5 and up)

Twelve Hats for Lena
by Karen Katz

Using materials from around the house, a bright preschooler crafts a hat for every month of the year. When Lena arrives at December, she has to decide how to make a hat that will make everyone happy. While the rhymes are sometimes slightly uneven, this book is sure to put young listeners in the holiday spirit and help them get their heads around the calendar! This jaunty title is sure to become a kindergarten staple, and includes directions so children can design their own chapeaus. Photograph kids in their creations to make a one-of-a-kind calendar! (4 and up)

If You Take a Mouse to School
by Laura Numeroff,
illustrated by Felicia Bond

In her best cumulative story since If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, cause and effect leads readers through lunchboxes, lockers, math problems, soccer matches and all the mouse trappings of a busy day at school. Preschoolers will see their own world of energy and enthusiasm celebrated in these pages. Especially dear is the hero's effort at classroom publishing; notice the stapled copy of "Goodnight Mouse! " (4 and up)

It appears that there is a significant rise in enrollement of rodents in the classroom this year, and one of the honor students is the hero inI.Q. Goes to School by Mary Ann Fraser. While it may be overshadowed by the marketing plans for Numeroff's book, this title is on the high end of the grading curve. The mouse this time is the class pet, who looks on admiringly as the teacher spotlights "Student of the Week." Many children will identify with I.Q.'s begrudging patience as he waits over the course of the school year to be chosen for this choice position of honor, and there is real tension as we wonder if he ever really will headline on that bulletin board! Besides this engaging plotline, this story follows an insightful month-by-month timeline that brims with all sorts of curriculum that children will recognize, including requisite holiday celebrations, field trips and (ahhhh!) read aloud! The mouse is not specially stylized, genuinely mousey with claws and tail and exercise wheel, but his efforts at artwork and good behavior is definitely the topical stuff of primary-aged people. Cheerfulness will make I.Q. the big cheese in any classroom collection. (5 and up)

Loretta, Ace Pinky Scout
by Keith Graves

Loretta is perfect at everything, and has the merit badges to prove it. "She flossed. She knew her scout manual by heart. She bench-pressed 375...And she saved the world every Thursday." Wouldn't Grandma be proud? Sadly, Loretta's perfectionism is in for a big burn-out when she tries to earn her Golden Marshmallow Badge. She must turn to her ancestors to learn that not only is everyone good at something, but everybody fails at something, too, somewhere along the line. Contemporary illustrations and language come together to send a message about turning down the high-pressure heat. Children who hear this story will be proud of Loretta (and of themselves) for trying! A humorous, honest story that definitely earns a merit badge. (6 and up)

Welcome Baby: Baby Rhymes for Baby Times
by Stephanie Calmenson,
illustrated by Melissa Sweet

These darling rhymes that will add a sunny lilt to any part of baby's day. There are poems for feeding, for elevator-button pushing, for waving, bathing, diaper-changing, peek-a-boo-ing, choo-choo-chooing, anything that baby's doing! Bouncy, even rhythms are as sweet and cozy as a tickle, and will give a welcome goose to a wearied nursery rhyme repertoire. Playpens full of cutie pies crawl, toddle and stroll across the pages, with a buttery palette and plenty to point at. Calmenson's rhymes are original and new; for more traditional verses, many lovely ones have been gathered in Michael Foreman's Playtime Rhymes. You and baby will go ga-ga over both collections! (Birth and up)

Night Dancer
by Marcia Vaughan,
illustrated by Lisa Deimini

Kokopelli is the mythical piper found in the mythology of the Hopi, Zuni and Pueblo people of the Southwest. He is the mediator between people and nature, and with the help of this dreamlike book, children can accompany him on a midnight romp along the Rio Grande. Swirling blues, violets and greens glow in the moonlight scenes that are digitally designed. As Kokopelli plays his flute, different desert animals come out in turn to join him and answer his poetic refrain, making this book perfect for choral speaking and dramatization. An aesthetic stand-out that succeeds in sharing information as well. (7 and up)

Yo, Vikings!
by Judith Byron Schachner

Every so often a book arrives that is hard to describe because it contains so much of what is wonderful at once, and in doing so, mirrors more of real life than what is expected. This is one of those books. A little girl who loves to pretend is assigned Erik the Red for World Discovery Day at school. She quickly becomes enamored with the romantic legends of the Vikings, inventing fabulous homemade costumes for herself and her little brother, who warns her father, "Emma wants a Biking ship for her birthday. You can buy it at the Biking store." Imagine Emma's surprise when her friend, the local children's librarian, shows her an advertisement in the newspaper for a real Viking ship for $7000 or best offer. Not having the cash, Emma makes her best offer, with surprising results. Based on a true story, the characters are so individually conceived that there is no one like them in any other book, and they are sure to be remembered lovingly well into adulthood. It is likely to induce terrific interest in Viking history and encourage an enthusiasm for learning in general, and goes far to confirm the optimistic idea that anything can happen! The illustrations are lucious and rich, overflowing with humor, detail and drama, warranting prolonged and repeated stare-sessions. Schachner has consistently produced truly outstanding work and deserves more recognition in the field as a contributor of remarkable children's literature. (7 and up) A Chapman Award Winner!

Joe Cinders
by Marianne Mitchell,
illustrated by Bryan Langdon

Two great Cinderella retellings have come out this season, both with a Tex-Mex flavor. In Joe Cinders, the tables are turned and it's a cowboy who dreams of two-stepping the fall fiesta at Miss Rosalinda's Rancho Milagro. The illustration of Joe swaying with a pitchfork and dreaming of the dance is one of pure romance. Thanks to a mysterious serape-wrapped senor, Joe scores some red boots and a matching pick-up truck, and before long Rosalinda is asking him to marry her on bended knee. The author's surprising play on roles is believable and refreshing and compromises no one, and the expressive rounded figures make the characters all the more endearing. The sandy palette is perfection, the pictures matching the comical text that hollers to be read aloud. There are many Cinderella retellings available, but this one stands on it's own as oh so sabroso! Both boys and girls will love it. (6 and up)

In Adelita: A Mexican Cinderella Story by Tomie DePaola, lots of Spanish vocabulary is directly incorporated into the text. When Adelita's father dies, she suffers the slings and arrows of outrageous step-family fortune. She hides out in the kitchen with Esperanza, the household help, who comes to her rescue with Adelita's mother's old clothes when Adelita decides to crash the big party. There are many direct references to Cinderella, at one point the character even jokingly suggests her handsome host think of her as Cenicienta. While the story has good tension, the real strength of this book is the illustrations, glowing with jewel-colored tiled borders, bold Mexican motifs and a dynamic layout. (7 and up)

Hare and Tortoise Race to the Moon
by Oliver J. Corwin

An Aesop's fable is blasted off into modern times via rocketships, as two rivals head for the moon. This book brims with fabulous sound effects, from Tortoise's engine's "putt, putt, putt" to Hare's energetic cries of "Woo-hoo!" The stellar artwork is full of fabulous geometric shapes and patterns and stylized line drawings set against a black background. The best part is that Hare and Tortoise start out their contest as the best of friends, and thanks to good sportsmanship, they end that way, too. This author's debut is definitely competitive. (5 and up) A Chapman Award Winner!

The Year I Didn't Go to School
by Giselle Potter

When the author was seven years old, she and her little sister took a sabbatical from traditional school to accompany and assist their parents as they performed around Italy as The Mystic Paper Beasts. Using the journal she kept, Potter is able remember and include all sorts of unique and exotic adventures, like having their truck wedged tight between buildings on a narrow street, eating spaghetti with fried egg on top, getting back-flip lessons from a real circus performer, surviving a dog bite and finding a valuable lost purse. Some of the best scenes in the book are in the context of performances: getting stage fright dressed as monkeys in front of a large crowd, beating a drum dressed as a panda or playing twin baby birds popping out of a golden egg. Part travelogue, part memoir, all enviable adventures that will have any child's imagination in flight, and every parent wondering about all the ways in the world there are to learn. Leaving this book out of your collection would definitely be considered an unexcused absence. (7 and up)

The Story of Noodles by Ying Chang Compestine, illustrated by YongSheng Xuan

Three brothers are enlisted to help their mother get ready for the big cooking contest. They decide to depend on Mama's delicious dumplings, but a kitchen accident means a change of plans. Will Aunt Lee beat the Kang family this year, or can the boys win the judges over by demonstrating the many ways to eat their family's latest culinary creation? The author often includes delicious recipes in her picture books (the dessert at the end of The Runaway Rice Cake is now part of my family's repetoire) and this book is no exception, with easy directions for Long Life Noodles. Striking illustrations in the style of Chinese paper cuts and a historical note at the end make this book extra satisfying. (6 and up)

Milly and the Macy's Parade
by Shana Corey,
illustrated by Brett Helquist

Milly, a Polish immigrant girl, is thrilled that her father works at Macy's department store, where she can play in the revolving doors, ride the escalators , loiter in ladies lingerie and of course, play with toys, toys, toys! But when she notices that the employees are down-in-the-mouth as a result of homesickness, she suggests an event to the CEO that will mix many traditions, bringing everyone together and giving them a reason to want to call America "home." A touching an imaginative blend of fact and fiction, the story is elegantly illustrated by the spot-artist of Lemony Snicket's bestselling series. Here, however, we see the expressive detail in wide-screen. What fun to viacriously visit an old-fashioned department store, and what a cheerful companion Miss Milly is! Red and copper foil lettering on the cover make it a tasteful gift as well as a great classroom read-aloud and salute to the spirit of our country. Besides, it's the best thing to hit Macy's since Miracle on 34th Street. (6 and up)

Beverly Billingsley Borrows a Book by Alexander Stadler

Oh, the joy of a first library card! The lovely librarian Mrs. Del Rubio, a chic chartreuse crane, escorts young Beverly Billingsley through this glorious rite of passage. And oh, how Beverly enjoys her big shiny copy of Dinosaurs of the Cretaceous Period, so much so that she forgets to return it on time! Whatever will become of her? Will she have to pay a thousand dollars? Will she have to go to jail? Whatever will Mrs. Del Rubio do to her? The writing is charming, full of well-timed humor, and the colorful artwork is deceptively simple, actually capturing so much characterization. Just look at the troublemakers on the playground, Sheila's big, gossipy mouth and Carlton's shifty, worrisome eyes! The ending is completely satisfying and goes far to excite children to take books to the next level. No library, home, school or public, should be without this sunny, funny volume...maybe two copies, in case anyone wants to borrow one. (5 and up)

How Kind! by Mary Murphy

Random acts of kindness abound on the barnyard in this simple, lovely story of a good deed round-robin. The bold black-line illustrations are reminiscent of Lucy Cousins' Maisy series, perfect for holding up for a crowd and equally cheerful to give as a gift. Wonderful for discussion about cause and effect, and sure to inspire altruism in readers. How kind of Mary Murphy to make such a friendly contribution to the shelves! (4 and up)

What Shall We Play?
by Sue Heap

What a joyful book! Three friends decide, page after page, what to pretend to be next. Trees? Cars? Fairies? Wibbly-wobbly Jell-O? The dynamic of the children is true to the best of children, as one boy, one girl and one child littler than the other two cheerfully negotiate the difficult decision by making sure everyone's idea gets a turn. The multi-media illustrations are absolutely magical, fun and big and smiley and silly, and very, very pretty. Naturally, any listener will want to play what the children in the story are playing, making for a sensational interactive read-aloud. This book is easy to extend; another fun tie-in is to have your children make their own illustrated "what shall we play" cards. Throw them in a bag and pick one to see what everyone can play next! In many ways, this is a perfect picture book that belongs in every early childhood collection. (3 and up)

Turk and Runt
by Lisa Wheeler,
illustrated by Frank Ansley

Turk's the turkey to beat in the barnyard. He's an athlete! He's a dancer! "He's a goner," mourns little brother Runt. Frail and four-eyed, he's the only one who seems to see the dire situation clearly through his nerdy glasses. His efforts to sabotage turkey sales is misunderstood, but when it's Runt who is about to headline on the menu, will Turk finally get his feathers ruffled? Stuffed with the most hilarious one-liners, a surprise ending and two painfully misguided poultry parents, this is the funniest book about Thanksgiving of this or any season. Fine vegetarian fare, and a good lesson on just how healthy a little skepticism can be. (5 and up)

Platypus by Chris Riddell

"What a great day for collecting" are the first words Platypus speaks one morning before going to the seaside to hunt through flotsam and jetsam. After picking through a number of interesting pieces, Platypus finds the perfect thing: a large curly shell. But the next morning, the coveted shell is missing from Platypus' special box! How could it have disappeared? The charming answer rates a beach blanket bravo! Besides being a great opportunity to chat about one of the wackiest creatures in wildlife's cast, Platypus' characterization is so expressively rendered that he is sure to become a classic. We are already waiting for the stuffed toy, and many more adventures with charming little Platypus. (4 and up) Want to hold a storytime on the sand? Try Simon James' environmental fableSally and the Limpet (5 and up) or Kay Chorao's somber seagull saga Grayboy (6 and up). For more of the best summer stories under the sun, visit Stories for All Seasons.

Wake Up, Big Barn!
by Suzanne Tanner Chitwood

Plenty happening down on the farm this season! Clap-along rhythms will have young children rejoicing in the sounds and sights of a day in the life of a busy barnyard. What makes this book notable, though, is the torn paper collage artwork. Crowing rooster, muddy pigs, riveting, ribbiting frogs, and that PEACOCK! All created from discarded catalogs and magazines! Even after six readings, you will still shake your head and wonder, "how does she do it!" and maybe you and your children will give it a try. The day on the farm winds down pleasantly into a wish for a good night, making it a lovely bedtime story...and when you wake up to cock's crow, you can read it again. (3 and up)

Turning from livestock to live people, another beautiful, and in fact important book this season is Once Upon a Farm by Marie Bradby, illustrated by Ted Rand. Life working the good earth is lovingly portrayed through the eyes of an African-American boy and his family. The layout is original and appealing, with homey, sprawling watercolors bleeding into airy double-page spreads, alternating with smaller visual vignettes. Every element in the book works together magnificently to capture a culture of well-balanced work and play, and an overall appreciation of nature. In the end, it is insinuated that the farm itself is plowed over to make way for highways and malls. This book is just as significant as Virginia Lee Burton's classic The Little House, and so much more accessible to modern readers. It is a personal and moving story that goes beyond the typical farm fare, asking us to reconsider the real meaning of "progress." (6 and up)

The Big Meow
by Elizabeth Spires, illustrated by Cynthia Jabar

Where did Little Cat get such a big meow? The "me" is from Little Cat's mother and the "ow" is from his father, both who think kitty's cacophony is...well...the cat's meow. The other little cats don't think he's so purrfect, though, and keep an unfriendly distance. When a bullying bulldog chases them, Little Cat has to listen to his little voice that tells him to be brave, and uses his unique yowl to keep everyone safe and make the friends he deserved all along. The language flows with lovely cadences and internal rhymes, and children will love joining in on the cat clique's refrain and Little Cat's mighty meows. The comical illustrations are generous and bright. Be loud and be proud and read this to a crowd! (6 and up)

Benny and the Binky
by Barbro Lindgren, illustrated by Olof Landstrom

In this sequel to the beloved porcine parable Benny's Had Enough, Benny has a new baby brother, and mama will not let Benny borrow his pacifier. Benny borrows his brother, then, and runs off with the pacifier, only to be accosted by some bullies who poach the binky and punch benny in the snout. How will Benny ever get his brother's beloved binky back now? The drama is very real, as is the resolution. The illustrations are almost cinematic in the power with which they carry the story along, with lots of sophisticated humor (I love the dog working on a laptop) that many modern children will appreciate. Besides, it is the best sibling story to come along since Kevin Henkes' Julius, the Baby of the World. (5 and up)

Mud is Cake
by Pam Munoz Ryan, illustrated by David McPhail

When is mud cake? When is juice tea? When is a tub a boat? When you use your imagination, of course! This book has no shortage of that commodity; page after page of gentle watercolors show children whose merry mindset changes the world around them. The verse sways and lilts in a pleasing sing-song, just right for read-aloud. This book is inspired, and will further inspire some great pretending in little ones! When is storytime lovely? When this book is shared! Let them read cake! (4 and up)

Also be sure to check of David McPhail's other recent offering, The Teddy Bear, an exceptional picture book which deals sensitively with the issue of homelessness. When a little boy loses his beloved toy, it is rescued by a man who is dumpster diving, and who comes to care for the bear as much as the boy did. On a chance meeting, the boy and man's paths cross...who will get custody of teddy? McPhail's strong palette bravely balances lights and darks, and the varied illustration placement makes this book artistically accomplished. But moreover, this is an unusual book that addresses moral and emotional development in children in an unparalleled way. A humane gem of storytelling, I hope this book ends up in every children's book collection, but it deserves to be used in teacher training as well. (5 and up)

Once Upon a Timeby Nick Sharatt
Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess who lived in a castle and met a magic fairy who helped her land a prince. Too traditional? How about this, then: once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess who lived in a camper and met a magic toilet who helped her hook up with a space man. Still don't like it? Not a problem. This "change the story book" comes with 36 press-out pieces that children can easily fit into slots in the pages to create their own stories over and over again. More than the average "gimmick" book, this title is a phenomenal choice for emergent readers, introducing sight vocabulary with picture cues and building confidence. Creative, interactive fun that your child will return to more than once upon a time. If I had a magic toilet I would definitely wish for more titles in the "change the story" series! (4 and up)

The Broken Cat by Lynn Rae Perkins
Parallel tales are told as a little girl takes her injured cat in to the vet, and the girl's family reminisces over the time when the girl's mother was a little girl herself and broke her arm. This dramatic anecdote comes to life through the many voices of several generations. The fact that the story starts out in a vet's office may need to be pointed out to young children, but otherwise the challenging task of telling two stories is managed through lively, realistic dialogue and engaging pictures from a variety of perspectives. This story is sure to suit animal lovers and will likely stimulate the sharing of family memories of your own.

I Want To Be a Cowgirl
by Jeanne Willis, illustrated by Tony Ross

"I just want to be a cowgirl. Daddy, what's so wrong with that?" Absolutely nothing, as this rhyming plea shows in page after hilarious page! Follow this citified child as she fantasizes a life of lassos and cattle herds, bucking broncos and spurs, and as she (sigh) tries to make do from her twenty-story apartment building. Look at the clouds...don't they seem like cactus, stagecoaches and ten-gallon hats? The skyline just can't compare to home on the range, and in the end, Daddy comes through, doubling the text's charm as a loving father-daughter story. When you close this book, bet you'll wish you were in Texas! Yee-hah! (6 and up)

Muncha! Muncha! Muncha!
by Candace Fleming, illustrated by G. Brian Karas

Lettuce! Carrots! Peas! Tomatoes! Mr. McGreely has got it growing on in his backyard garden, but three hungry hares have other plans for his fine, crunchy vegetables. The battle is on...will this be the end of Mr. McGreely's salad days? Children will giggle at each escalated effort to keep the bunnies out, and they will love joining in on the rhythmic and repetitious language. Karas's sketchy artwork is a perennial favorite. Definitely 24-carrot storytime reading. Also, check out Karas' other recent release, Car Wash by Sandra and Susan Steen, in which a trip through a car wash becomes an underwater adventure. Lots of sound effects and bubbly illustrations make this good clean fun for 4 and up. Take a field trip through the real car wash afterwards!

Madlenka's Dog
by Peter Sis

The girl who has been around the block that we fell in love with in Madlenka is back, this time taking an imaginary dog for a walk. As she strolls, she meets neighbors who see the dog through the eyes of their childhood. Readers can lift-the-flaps to see interior views of the dogs they remember, in the world-wide settings where they grew up. Finally, Madlenka meets her friend Cleopatra who happens to have an imaginary horse, and the afternoon is whiled away in double-page spreads that show them at play in their own interior landscapes. Strangely evocative, this is a book both grown-ups and children can enjoy. In many ways, it is an easier read-aloud than the original Madlenka, with bigger pictures and more straightforward text. It still has the corner map feature in which we can always find Madlenka in her neighborhood (and which is also a reminder of our own small place in the universe), but this book also has the added feature of a guide to dogs at the end, which was so interesting that children pored over as much that single page as much as the rest of the text! Many original attributes make this book one of a kind and a title that will be enjoyed for repeated readings. Combine with Dayal Kaur Khalsa's I Want a Dog for a good thematic storytime. (5 and up)

Sea-Cat and the Dragon King by Angela Carter, illustrated by Eva Tatcheva

Bloomsbury, the original British publishers of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, now has a new American division! This title is the shining starfish of their new list. A wonderfully imaginative story of a little sea-cat who lives under the waves with his sea-cat mother in a house made of driftwood, curtains made of fishing net and a chimney made of an old lost-sea boot "to make the house look like a home." When mother sea-cat knits her son a jewel-encrusted jumpsuit, he becomes the envy of the ocean, and roils the homely and unloved Dragon King, Lord of the Ocean. This fable about self confidence has a timeless feel to it, excitement without being too scary and is also a lovely mother-son story. The unpretetentious pen and ink artwork is dear, matching the story's inventiveness. For those who have wondered where the delightful and descriptive reads of your childhood have gone, this one's for you. If you have a lap and a kid, then you need this book to complete the circle. The format also makes for a good first "chapter" book for new readers. (6 and up)

The Saturday Escape
by Daniel J. Mahoney

Jack and his friends love story hour day! In fact, they love it so much, that they each commit some act of naughtiness to get out of chores and head for the library. Once they have arrived, however, each is riddled by guilt. Is there any way they can do the right thing, and still enjoy a story hour? This book responsibly takes on some tricky themes such as cooperation, setting priorities and how our actions affect others, but by the same token this book is also a merry tribute to childhood mischief. Children will relate readily to the juggling act of balancing what they want to do with what parents ask them to do, and will laugh and gasp out loud at the colorful pictures of naughty bears, mice and bunnies. This book belongs at every story hour (after the chores are done). (6 and up)

Little Red Riding Hood
retold and illustrated by Marjorie Priceman

Oh, Marjorie Priceman, what big talent you have! This book is a basket of goodies, achieving a beautiful balance between substantial text and stylish pop-up artwork, breathing new life into a traditional favorite. In this version, there is realistic and engaging dialogue and characterization, and best of all, Red Riding Hood manages to ward off the wolf using her own devices. The book cleverly ends with Grandma reading Red Riding Hood a version of her own story that allays any fears children...or parents...may have. Take it to grandmother's house! (5 and up)

And if you like fractured fairy tales, you will also enjoy the pop-up Diary of Hansel and Gretel, proved to be Authentic and Real by Kees Moerbeek. Gretel's voice rings as authentic as Marissa Moss' Amelia series and is as irreverent as Sciezka's True Story of the Three Little Pigs. The newspaper clipping "Little Girl Outsmarts Evil Witch!" is priceless, as are the operating intructions for "The Inferno: the best cooking oven for every witch." Straight parody in scrapbook form is suitable for older readers. (8 and up)

Dog Eared
by Amanda Harvey

Out on the daily walk, Otis is the victim of a crude remark: "out of my way, Big Ears," grumbles another passing mutt. Big ears? Moi? Slighted, the endearing doggie examines himself in a mirror, agonizing over what he should do about his floppy appendages. His efforts at self-improvement result in a series of laugh-aloud illustrations as he twists and twirls his ears in an effort to create new styles. It turns out that bigger is better as far as Otis's owner is concerned, and through kind words and affection the canine is consoled. Every reader will relate to Otis's all-too-human moments of self-doubt, and will likewise revel in this realistic resolution. A howlingly funny read featuring one of the most disarming animal characters to come around in a long time. (5 and up)

The Magic Hat
by Mem Fox, illustrated by Tricia Tusa

"Oh, the magic hat, the magic hat!/ It moved like this, it moved like that," and whoever it lands on, it changes them into something different! Turn each page to see illustrator Tricia Tusa transform unassuming folk into kangaroos, baboons and bears in the midst of confetti-like color! Who can stop such a magic charm? Only someone wonderful! The spell seems put forth purely to entertain the children of the town, and will entertain your children as well. Mem Fox is a popular Australian author with many celebrated and beloved titles under her belt, but pairing her verse with Tusa's pictures was inspired and has resulted in a book that I believe to be among the most enchanting of either's career. (5 and up)

While offering this book to little kids, consider simultaneously suggesting Susan Meddaugh's Lulu's Hat for slightly older siblings. In True Magic Families, one member of each generation is born with a magic touch. And every year, Uncle Jerry picks a different nephew or niece to assist him in a traveling magic show, to see if they have the special gift. It's Lulu's turn to assist, but she's adopted. She can't have the touch, can she? When Lulu follows her dog, Hereboy, into the depths of a magic hat into Deep Magic Space, she finds the surprising answers to many magical questions. Can she find the way out of the hat as well? This zany illustrated chapter book switches point of view to accomodate a sideline story of a pranking boy who finds the hat while Lulu is still in it, making the book a somewhat challenging read, but the break-neck fantasy will motivate children to follow. Fans of Harry Potter's Hermoine will find a new girl to befriend in Lulu. (8 and up)

The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins
by Barbara Kerley, illustrated by Brian Selznick

In 1853, nobody knew what a dinosaur looked like, but thanks to Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins, that was about to change. Using his imaginative genius he pieced together the puzzling fossils to create the first life-sized models of dinosaurs! To unveil his masterpieces, Waterhouse sent out invitations inscribed on a pterydactl wing for a dinner party on New Year's Eve. A feast was served inside a gigantic model iguanadon! You'd think everyone would want to be friends with a guy who could throw a party like that, but alas, when then great artist Waterhouse crosses the Atlantic and the corrupt New York politician Boss Tweed, some of Waterhouse's Paleozoic pals come to harm. The truth is stranger than fiction in this fabulous picture-book biography, paying homage to the life of a man who brought imagination to life and art and science together. If you can't physically visit the Waterhouse's creations at the Crystal Palace in Sydenham, England, Selznick's magical and meticulously researched illustrations will take you there. The efforts and execution of this book are a tour de force, and are sure to be the biggest thing to hit children's lit since T-Rex. (7 and up)Congratulations to Brian Selznick for his 2001 Caldecott Honor, the highest American commendation for children's book illustration! We knew you could do it!!!

Bear Snores On
by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman

There won't be any snoring at your storytime when you share this title...this book is the best read-aloud romp since Michael Rosen's classic We're Going On a Bear Hunt! A number of animals find cozy cover in bear's deep, dark lair...but when bear wakes up, is the party over? Broad illustrations in browns and blues and plenty of double-page spreads will envelope your listener like a big bear hug. Combine with Phillis Gershator's warm and wonderful When It Starts to Snow, warm blankets and cocoa for the perfect hibernation storytime ever. Wake up, bear, you don't want to miss the applause for your author's awesome debut!

Molly and the Magic Wishbone
by Barbara McClintock

When Mama is in bed with a bad cold, helpful Molly goes out to buy fish for the family's dinner, and ends up meeting her fairy godmother who advises her to save the bone she finds in her portion and use it for one magic wish of her choice. Her brothers and sisters have many exciting suggestions which are elegantly illustrated on a double-page spread, but Molly yields not to temptation. In the days that follow many occasions arise that warrant a good wish, but Molly prudently solves the problems in other ways. What makes Molly finally use her wish? Read and find out! I assure you that at the end of this book, your listeners will be wishing for "one more time!" Barbara McClintock deserves more recognition as an illustrator, exercising a cross between the mastery, imagination and elegance of John Tenniel (Alice's Adventures in Wonderland) and the sweetness and strong characterization of Ernest Sheppard (Wind in the Willows). The story is loosely based on the Charles Dicken's story "The MagicFishbone," which is cleverly alluded to in the cover illustration depicting Dicken's "Fresh Fish" shop. Definitely fresh! (6 and up)

Rocks in His Head
by Carol Otis Hurst, illustrated by James Stevenson

This is a story about being interested in the world! The author recollects the life of her father, a fervent rock collector. People teased him for having "rocks in his pockets and rocks in his head," and someone warns him, "there's no money in rocks." Nonetheless, even as he grew up and ran a filling station, he collected rocks. Even as he dealt parts for Model T Fords, he collected rocks. Even when the Great Depression hit, he collected rocks. And on one rainy day, his rock collecting leads him to meet someone who will change his life, proving that this father was no rockhead but a diamond in the rough. This story embraces learning and sharing without pretension and demonstrates an important lesson on the importance of following where your heart leads to live the life you were meant to live. Stevenson's plain, muddy illustrations give this book a homey warmth. I have to say that this unassuming volume is one the best books of the year. Also, be sure to check out the author's website, and sign up for her children's literature newsletter! (7 and up)

Olivia Saves the Circus
by Ian Falconer

Precocious piggy Olivia goes to school and is asked what she did over vacation. Of course, she went to the circus, but since all the performers had ear infections, Olivia takes over, becoming tattooed lady, lion tamer, and Queen of the Trampoline, to name a few. The expression on the teacher's face after Olivia relates the adventure alone are worth the price of the book, as is the realistic, hilarious banter: "'Was that true?' Olivia's teacher asks. 'Pretty true,' says Olivia. 'All true?' "Pretty all true.'" Falconer's sophisticated line illustrations are the funniest, loveliest artwork to grace children's lit since Kay Thompson's Eloise , and if you can believe it, this book is even better than Falconer's Caldecott Honor prequel Olivia . Many clever little girls will see themselves in Olivia, but during read-alouds it was the boys laughed the hardest and begged for second readings. Great for teaching tall tales, too. This book will leave you as high and breathless as a walk on a tightrope. (6 and up)

Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon
by Patty Lovell, illustrated by David Catrow

Molly Lou is the shortest girl in first grade, has a voice like a boa constrictor, buck teeth like a beaver, and the grace of a left-handed gorilla, but Molly Lou also has a secret weapon: her loving grandmother's good advice, which helps her shine like the star she is, even when she attends a new school. This is easily the most encouraging back-to-school book out this season. Besides a formalistically flawless story, David's Catrow's illustrations are hilarious, imaginative and perfectly married to the text. Molly emanates a cuteness that is first-cousin to Dr. Seuss's "Cindy Lou Who." The illustration of Molly Lou standing in the middle of a paper snowflake that is exponentially larger than she is is breathtaking, the image of Molly Lou barreling past the school bully to make a touchdown will illicit cheers and the close-up of Molly Lou's smile is completely contagious. On the last page, Molly Lou writes a letter to her grandma telling her how it's going, and wait until you see grandma! Children will laugh out loud and cherish this book until they have grandchildren of their own. Take my advice and don't miss this winner! (6 and up)

Now What Can I Do?
by Margaret Park Bridges, illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Mother and son raccoon are cooped up inside on a rainy day with chores to do...but Mommy knows how to make it fun! As little raccoon uses his imagination, the pages explode with all the color of a coveted box of 64 crayons! Perhaps the best part of the book is that it is told soley in back-and-forth dialogue between parent and child, each part a different font, its scripted quality making it a perfect read-together! This is also a wonderful book about combatting the "B" word, "boredom," and that each day is as fun as we make it. As the last lines of the book read as raccoon looks to the stars in the sky, "Oh, Mommy! There are a million things to do!" Reading this clever book is one of them! (4 and up)

It's Okay to Be Different
by Todd Parr

Did you know, it's okay to eat macaroni and cheese in the bathtub? (My son was very excited to learn this.) It's okay to dance by yourself? It's okay to have different kinds of friends? This book is as colorful and fun to chew on as a bag of gumdrops. While I worried that this bibliotheraputic title would beat us over the head with dogma, it won both me and my audience over with it's genuine cheerfulness and truth. For instance, "It's okay to need help," depicts a sunny smiling person being led by an equally sunny and smiling guide dog. Rather than trying to convince us, this book does a great job of affirming the best of what is already in our hearts. It is timely and great for discussion at all age levels, and skin tones and hair come in every color in this book...I mean every color. Even the zebra has taken a run through the rainbow! And why not? It's okay. It's okay to love this book. (All ages)

You Read to Me, I'll Read to You
by Mary Ann Hoberman, illustrated by Michael Emberley

All right, all you folks who have been asking me for a recommendation for your child who is just learning to read, this is it! Inspired by the author's work with Literacy Volunteers of America, this book uses the voices of two readers, each taking turns to read a color coded line or couplet of verse, each double-page poem ending with some variation of the heavenly mantra "you read to me, I'll read to you." Besides setting children up for reading success with controlled vocabulary and predictability, the droll narrative poetry is accented by Emberley's spot cartoons which further helps to convey the vignettes to new readers. Budding booklovers who enjoy this format will also find fun in 25 Just-Right Plays for Emergent Readers by Carol Pugliano, and be sure to check out the bottom of Russell's Book Basket, too. (5 and up)

The Quiltmaker's Gift
by Jeff Brumbeau, illustrated by Gail de Marcken

A king who likes to receive presents so much that he declares his birthday be celebrated twice a year is rebuffed by a sweet grandmotherly quiltmaker who only makes gifts for the poor and needy. Angered by this, the king sets up a series of imaginative punishments, but the woman emerges unscathed thanks to her own generosity. Finally she agrees to make the king a quilt if he gives away all the things he owns; "with each gift that you give, I'll add another piece to your quilt." In the process, the king travels the world, makes many friends and finds real happiness…and, yes, receives one of the most stunning and inventive quilts ever to warm the pages of a children's book. While the parable is timely and helpful in raising a child in a world of consumerism and corporate greed, the story does not read as a morality play. Instead, the writing is as compulsively readable and cliffhanging as a good fairy tale. The watercolor illustrations are eye-candy fit for a dream, and can be revisited again and again; the double-page spread of the contents of the king's castle is startling in beauty and variety, taking a child's breath away in a manner rivaled only by the entrance to an amusement park or the aisle-long view at a toy-store. The details and inventiveness that is sustained page after page is astonishing; from the peacock plumes gracing the soldier's hats to the merry-go-round with real horses that every child would want to ride! The only difficulty is that the illustrations are small and detailed, making them hard to share with a large group. So do as the king and the quiltmaker do, and seek out who you want to share with one at a time until everyone has received The Quiltmaker's Gift. Both the author and illustrator have made an outstanding gift to the world. Also, you can visit the king and the quiltmaker online and learn to quilt by clicking here or visit here for a comprehensive list of quilt-related books. (All ages)

The Tale of Tricky Fox
retold by Jim Ayelsworth, illustrated by Barbara McClintock

A kindly teacher in a one-room schoolhouse recounts a bet between Tricky Fox and his brother. Tricky Fox claims he can fool any human into giving him a pig...or he'll eat his hat! And so begins a series of visits to unsuspecting and kindly old spinsters, as Tricky Fox systematically strategizes his way toward the whole hog in this retelling of the New England folktale "What's in Fox's Bag?" But Ayelsworth's version has a twist; the last old lady happens to be none other than the teacher who is telling the story, and while you may be able to fool some of the people some of the time, you can't fool teacher! The artwork iscolorful and reminiscent of antique engravings, and generous in detail. Everyone who heard this story just loved it, as it contains all the suspense, sing-song and surprise that make a great read-aloud. I'll bet your favorite kids will love it, too, or I'll eat my hat, or at least the "Eat Your Hat Cookies," using the recipe on the back of this book! For 6 and up, and a great end-of-school gift for teacher as well. For more trickster tales, click here.

When Moon Fell Down
by Linda Smith, illustrated by Kathryn Brown.

Move over, Edward Lear's "Owl and the Pussycat!" There's a brand new children's rhyming romance in town! This a verse that deserves a place in the classic Mother Goose canon, and was in fact written by a super mom of seven children! At once gentle and funny and mysterious, this is a definitive bedtime read. Our friend moon comes down for some adventure and receives a grand tour of the town from a gracious cow. The words are arranged as perfectly as stars in a constellation (The rye smelled sweet/The night winds whirled/Circling moon in a misty wreath/And he beamed in awe/At this wondrous world-/The stars above and the earth beneath"). Sadly, the author was recently lost to cancer, and portions of the book's proceeds go to breast cancer research. But you can't purchase this book to be philanthropic, because with every page, you will be receiving much more than you give. I am sure Linda Smith is now delivering readings in heaven, to the delight of A.A. Milne, Robert Louis Stevenson and Walter de la Mare. We were lucky she left this sliver of shining moon behind before she departed. (3 and up)

Casey at the Bat:
by Ernest Lawrence Thayer, illustrated by Christopher Bing

Get yer hotdogs! Peanuts! Caldecott winner here! Open the faux leather scrapbook cover to reveal the faithful retelling of the antihero of Mudville, the Mighty Casey who comes to bat at the bottom of the ninth, and on the last pitch he...well, read and see! You'll find plenty to peruse besides Thayer's classic poem; each newspaper page is adorned with newspaper clippings, standings, advertisements, tickets, letters, cards, coins and confetti, a truly unique collection and executed in a way that can only be described as a miraculous feat of time travel. This All-American book deserves nothing but far as illustration goes, it is not just a home run, but a grand slam in the world series, every sports lover's dream come true. Look at the detail, the ink is even bleeding through the newspaper! Don't worry, Casey, Thayer has succeeded where you have failed, and you're bound to find a new generation of fans thanks to the most loving offering to the game ever seen in children's literature since In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson by Bette Bao Lord (10 and up). You and your children will go extra innings looking at this one. All ages, and a great Father's Day gift.

And speaking of Spring, another crackerjack of a baseball book just out is The Journal of Biddy Owens by Walter Dean Myers, part of the excellent My Name is America Series (8 and up). One young man's adventures are documented during a year in the Negro Leagues. This story of spirit in the face of dissapointment and inequity is a real diamond!

Emily's Art
by Peter Catalanotto

My husband is an artist. When I ask my husband what his favorite color is, he always says, "all of them." When I ask him what his favorite picture at the museum is, he says "all of them." This book helped me understand why he is not so judgemental! Emily is a talented young artist, though perhaps not as conventional as her classmates. When Emily's art is put in the school art contest, will Emily's art will be judged fairly, and more importantly, will Emily be true to herself no matter what the judges may say? The illustration style is realistic, with glimpses of humor that are usually uncharacteristic of such a style, and containing imaginative undertones as well; Emily's figure fades slightly as her identity as an artist wavers. This beautiful book addresses the subjectivity of art, and the art of being an individual and all we can do to support every child as an artist. Emily, you win the contest any day...but we're rooting for this title to win the Caldecott award, too! (6 and up)

The First Bear in Africa!
by Satomi Ichikawa

When a family of tourists visit Meto in his small African village, the daughter accidently leaves something very precious...her bear! This leads Meto on a spirited chase across the savanna, leaving surprised jungle animals in his wake. When the bear is delivered safely, the litle girl has something special for Meto in return. Besides being an exciting book, it speaks to the universal energy and friendliness of children everywhere. It is also a bit of food for thought about how new ideas are globetrotted! Wrap it up with a red-ribboned teddy for a great gift, and be sure to add it to your "Bear Necessities" storytime (click here for more ideas). Also, check out Ichikawa's holiday offering, What the Little Fir Tree Wore to the Christmas Party. (5 and up)

Apple Farmer Annie
by Monica Wellington

Follow Apple Farmer Annie as she gathers apples from her orchards. Look at all the different kinds there are! Look at all she can make from them! Then join Annie as she travels into the city to sell her wares at the farmer's market! This book is as satisfying as apple pie a la mode, simple text bordered with clear, thematic drawings. The books is reminsiscent of the popular preschool titles by Gail Gibbons, but even rosier. Recipes included! Teachers, you will wear this book down to the core from use! Don't forget, Johnny "Appleseed" Chapman's birthday is September 26 (click here for great literature-based festival ideas)! (4 and up)

The Dirty Little Boy
by Margaret Wise Brown

I imagine it was a very daunting task to find a modern illustrator to match with the legendary Margaret Wise Brown (Goodnight Moon), but Steven Salerno comes off squeaky clean and goes far to create a reputation of his own. A little boy with jam on his face, chocolate on his knee, mud between his toes and dust in his hair asks his busy mother for a bath. She suggests he "run along, see how the animals take their baths and that way youÕll learn how to get clean." Imagine what happens when the little boy imitates a bird, a piggy and a horse! This story originally appeared in Jack and Jill magazine in 1937 under the title "How The Animals Took a Bath," and remains as fresh as a soap bubble. The publisher used some original process so that the ink actually looks shiny and wet, perfect for the mud puddles that abound page after page! The oversized pictures (and the oversized mother!) are sure to make a big splash at storytime. (4 and up)

The Misadventures of Gaspard and Lisa series
by Anne Gutman and Georg Hallensleben

Direct from France is a new series about two cuddle-worthy bunny-like animals. Visiting museums, splashing at the seashore or flying high in an airplane are just a few of the familiar scenarios made novel through the vulnerable first person (or first-bunny) point of view. My favorite is Gaspard in the Hospital, with the most heart-rendering depiction of an emergency and sweetest surprise ending since Curious George went to the hospital. Let Gaspard and Lisa's misadventures be some of your child's first reading adventures! Durable covers and small size make these vignettes the perfect next step after board books. (2 and up)

Ernie Dances to the Didgeridoo by Alison Lester
Finally! A really great book about Australia that doesn't feature some cuddly koala or wheedling wombat! This book celebrates the real continent and the real children who live there. The author visited the community of Gunbalanya twice to create this book, and it shows; this is the most authentic and interesting picture book contribution to the subject of Australia we've come across. In the story, Ernie travels to live in an Aboriginal community for a year while his parents work in a hospital, but he promises to write his classmates a letter for each of the six seasons there. Lucky readers are treated to double-page cartoon spreads describing the fun activities that take place throughout the year. The text is simple yet manages to instill a real sense of newness and discovery from a child's perspective. There is a helpful pronunciation guide and glossary giving it special classroom value, but the cheerful story stands on it's own. Whether or not you can correctly say "Kurnumeleng!" you can't read it without coming away learning something new. Don't miss this trip in a book! 7 and up.

The Very Kind Rich Lady and Her One Hundred Dogs
by Chinlun Lee

This is a very straightforward story in which a lovely woman happens to own a hundred dogs, and we get to enjoy them along with her without any paper training. Once the kids are done laughing over some of the dog names like "Tinkle" and "Yum Yum," there's great material for discussion. What would you name a dog? What is your favorite of the hundred dogs? It will be hard to choose; the cheerful watercolor illustrations are absolutely endearing, and each canine is more cunning than the next. A child can only look on the double page spread with envy, as one hundred dogs come running to play, play, play! And the last page, with the Very Kind Rich lady in her jammies, curled up with a hundred dogs, well, could anything be cozier? I like how this book is not overplayed with the excess plot and text that plagues so many modern children's books; it feels like the artist was really able to create the book she wanted. And the children wanted it, too...even after repeated readings, this book is purebred fun! Bow-WOW! Children's literature is going to the dogs, and we have Chinlun Lee to thank, and thank, and thank...she is the real "very kind" lady to create such a delightful book, and she deserves to be very rich. For 5 and up.

Two Homes
by Claire Masurel, illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton

I don't go in much for "bibliotherapy" or "issue" books, but Two Homes is done with such grace that it reaches way beyond a book about divorce. It is a book about a child feeling loved, secure and happy in two places. Alex gives us a tour of both his homes: his Dad's at the lake, and his mom's city apartment. "I have two kitchens," he explains. "I have two bathrooms." And in the end, Alex has two parents, whose voice is heard in the final pages, "We love you wherever we are. And we love you wherever you are." While sensitive, this book is never maudlin; in fact, it is genuinely cheerful and interesting to see Alex's homes. This is in no small part due to Denton's absolutely masterful artistic treatment, full of sunny details like Alex's watercolor paintings of his parents and the generous sampling of smiles throughout. The pictures are just so beautiful and carry such an unspoken emotional depth, you and your listener will find yourself lingering in the moments portrayed. I wouldn't hesitate to give this to any child, regardless of family situation; while children whose parents have separated will find a calming sense of normalcy within the pages, it is actually a great introduction for young children who have friends whose parents are divorced and don't understand the deal. 4 and up.

Book! Book! Book!
by Deborah Bruss,
illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke

When the children go back to school, the animals on the farm are left with nothing to do. The hen takes the initiative to lead the livestock to the library, and they each take a turn approaching the librarian who, alas, can't decode their barnyard banter. Can hen cluck the code to get the goods? This story has a punchline that is all sweet corn! The watercolor and acrylic illustrations are folksy and bright, and the chummy story is just right for primary storytimes. Look for the wide-smiling frog on every page! 4 and up.

by Christopher Myers

One of the marks of an excellent book is that you are still thinking of it days later. Many days later, readers will remember the stark paper-cut image of Ikarus Jackson, the boy with wings, long, strong, proud wings. He swoops and dives throughout a collage city landscape, slam dunking a basketball, and then on to school where his wide and wonderful wings block the blackboard. But not everyone finds his wings wonderful...Ikarus becomes the subject of ridicule. One girl notices the lonely drooping of his wings, and she needs to find the strength to love what is different in another person to help Ikarus fly again. This book, told in a few well-chosen words, performs the soaring feat of addressing the power of friendship and the need in all children to be appreciated for who they are. Unlike the Icharus of Greek Mythology, Ikarus's wings do not melt away, and young listeners will find their own spirits soaring as they see in themselves the ability to help others fly. I bet the great illustrator Ezra Jack Keats would be proud to see such books are still being published today. 7 and up and up and up!

The Pie is Cherry
by Michael Rex

The pie is cherry. The cereal is colorful. The pretzel is salty. The onion is sliced. The kitchen is the place for a smorgasboard of adjectives, introducing young children to the variety of sights, tastes, sensations, smells and sounds, going way beyond the average concept book not only to teach basic vocabulary but to encourage enthusiastic observation of everyday things. The bold, sunny illustrations are as inviting as a bowl of fruit, making it delicious to read and re-read. The book is good! (3 and up)

The Hickory Chair
by Lisa Rowe Fraustino, illustrated by Benny Andrews

Gran had a good alive smell: lilacs, with a whiff of bleach. Louis loves that smell, her warm face and her salty kisses. He loves playing hide and seek with her. He loves her molasses voice as she reads to him out loud, sitting in her favorite old hickory chair. But when the sad day comes and Gran says goodbye to the world, she leaves one last game of hide and seek, leaving her favorite things to her favorite people in secret spots. Can Louis use his "blind sight" to find Grandma's keepsakes for his family...and for himself? The descriptions from the point of view of the boy who is blind are incredibly rich and sensitive. Benny Andrews' paintings have been displayed in museums throughout the country and the world, and his long, solid figures add both grace and gravity to the story. Don't miss a chance to climb into Gran's hickory chair, and sense all that is bittersweet. 7 and up.

Take Me Out of the Bathtub and Other Silly Dilly Songs
by Alan Katz, illustrated by David Catrow

This falls under the same category as The Giggler Treatment did in the last update; goofy to grownups and a unanimous winner with the kids. This book is full of "Sung to the Tune of's," a la Mad Magazine, and I'm sure Alfred E. Neuman would delight in reading this aloud. For instance, there is "Cranky Poodle" sung to the tune of "Yankee Doodle," "Go Go Go to Bed" inspired by "Row, Row, Row Your Boat," and "I've Been Cleaning Up My Bedroom" riding the rails of "I've Been Working on the Railroad." The most popular by far is "Stinky, Stinky Diaper Change" a la "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star." Catrow's zany and splashy illustrations are the real talent hidden under diapers and underwear, televisions and unreturned library books, but even if these ditties are somewhat dreadful I have no doubt they wil make your child very popular at summer camp. Start rehearsing now. 5 and up...10 year olds laugh as hard as the 5 year olds do.

Hiccup, Snickup
by Melinda Long, illustrated by Thor Wickstrom

Put a paper bag over your head? Let your brother scare you? Drink from the wrong side of a cup? How, how, HOW do you cure the hiccups? It is the mystery of the ages. One thing is for sure, hiccups are contagious...and so is laughter. Young booklovers will be laughing to the point of hiccups, burps and other bodily functions trying to sing the "hiccup snickup" song three times fast, and doing the dazzling dance daringly demonstrated in these noodle-y, doodle-y illustrations. Have (hic!) fun...and be sure to (hic!) share, with this book, the more the mer(hic!)rier. 5 and up.

School Trip
by Tjibbe Veldkamp, illustrated by Philip Hopman

This book is my personal favorite. Davy is supposed to go to his first day of school, but en route, he changes his mind. After all, there might be mean teachers and homework and bullies. So he wanders off into the world and builds his own school...and what an amazing school it is! When other children find out about the school (or rather, when the school finds them) how can they resist transferring? The text is sparse and the illustrations are loose and expressive, very much in the style of children's literature in the Netherlands, where this book was originally published. The depictions of Davy's unassuming mother and of his teacher Mr. Stern are hilarious. Little red-headed Davy is a hero. Pick up this book and share in fantasy, and his victory! 5 and up.

Henry's First Moon Birthday
by Lenore Look

This author has the writing skill of a hundred birthdays! Take, for instance, GninGnin, who is cooking in the kitchen amidst puts and bowls of food, "touching this one here and that one there, like a gardener tending her plants." Baby Henry smiles, "eyes like commas." Or, looking in a mirror alongside her grandmother, "I see we are a pair, like favorite shoes, side by side." Told from the viewpoint of a mischievous little girl, there is a profound immediacy to the prose and we are as immersed in Jenny's world as jenny is immersed in the red-as-a-firecracker dye of the lucky eggs she is coloring. The pictures are as jolly and naive as if the character drew them herself. A glossary of Korean words is included, but it is incidental. I like that things aren't overexplained in this book; we are taken into the homey confidence of a family in preparation of a special day.

Max, The Stubborn Little Wolf
by Marie-Odile Judes, illustrated by Martine Bourre

Max's father is a real he-man...or rather, he-wolf. "Wolf fathers and sons are hunters, have always been hunters, and always will be hunters...and that is that!" But that isn't that, because Max is a vegetarian who cheerfully proclaims his lifelong dream: to become a florist. Max's father's chagrin is hilariously portrayed; my favorite illustration is Max running ahead to warn a vulnerable rabbit of his father's approach, while Papa looks on in shock. The tension in the story is very real as Max's father employs a series of schemes to change Max's tune. While father's frustration is never completely resolved, Max is still the victorious hero, proving that a seed still grows into its own tree...or wolf...or child, no matter who plants it. (4 and up)

The Missing Mitten Mystery by Steven Kellogg
Did you ever lose a mitten when you were a child and get scolded for it? After all, mittens don't grow on trees...unless you are reading a book by Steven Kellogg! When a little girl loses her fifth mitten, she tries hard to track it down, through a series of scenarios. First she imagines an eagle carrying it off, then she fantasizes the mitten got tired of being a mitten and hopped away. Perhaps a mouse is using the mitten for a sleeping bag? Oh, where could it be? The answer will capture even the frostiest heart. Teachers, I don't need to tell you that this book screams "art project" and "bulletin board!" (Pair it with Jan Brett's The Mitten for a great primary storytime.) This extremely imaginitive romp is a great holiday gift book for teachers, to be enjoyed well past January. 5 and up.

Steven Kellogg has been a busy boy...he has newly illustrated an old favorite, The Baby BeeBee Bird by Diane Redfield Massie, about a little bird who keeps the rest of the zoo awake all night (sound like anyone you know?). This book is for the animal-noises set, with more sound effects than a George Lucas movie, but the Baby Beebee is genuinely cute and young children will roar for more. 3 and up.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: A Commemorative Pop-Up
by L. Frank Baum, illustrated by Robert Sabuda

If you are looking for a book that rates 100% on the "oooh-ahhhh!" meter, this is the one. Any child, in particular a reluctant reader, will be dazzled and fascinated by the Emerald City jumping to life in the middle of the book, the whirling balloon and spinning tornado. The artwork warrants accolades even without the magnificent engineering, consisting of hundreds of linoleum cut prints, and there is enough text to make this pop-up perfect for older kids as well, most pages having "mini books" attached full of the original story. This book does great honor to the Wonderful Wizard as well as the pop-up genre, and will be as treasured in your home as a pair of ruby slippers. Whether or not this book actually survives the twister of children's handling, you'd be a real wicked witch not to share it with your favorite munchkin. All ages.

The Girl Who Spun Gold
by Virginia Hamilton,
illustrated by Leon and Diane Dillon

This book is gorgeous! This book is gorgeous! This book is gorgeous! Did I mention this book is gorgeous? Not only is it gorgeous, but it is an African retelling of the "Rumplestiltskin" story (told with a lively West Indian dialect) and a formidable addition to any folktale collection. When sweet Quashiba's mother lies and tells Big King her daughter can spin golden thread, she is first happily wed and then unhappily locked in a room until she can perform this miracle, which she does...with the help of the mysterious and sinister Lit'Mahn. The illustrations are appropriately gilded in gold ink, and children will love the picture of Lit'Mahn exploding in anger. What I really liked about this story is that even after the foe was reckoned with, Quashiba was angry at the king for three long years and would not speak to him for what he put her through. I don't blame her, do you? The author and illustrators worked together and indeed did manage to spin a magical tale of solid gold. Read this as a family instead of t.v. some night! 7 and up (children in intermediate grades 4, 5 and 6 especially enjoyed it).

Lucky Pennies and Hot Chocolate
by Carol Diggory Shields, illustrated by Hiroe Nakata

"My favorite person in the world is coming to visit," begins this cozy story of a boy and his grandfather. Oh, there are so many things to share and do! Knock-knock jokes, watching a movie (as long as it's not too talky or kissy), inventing a new pancake recipe, playing ball. The list of things they like to do...and don't like to do...are told in an authentic voice that is as fresh as a snowflake on the tongue, and the illustrations are bouncy and bright and convey the love between these special friends. The best part of all, though, is the surprise ending! A perfect lap book for two of your favorite guys. 4 and up.

Armadillo Tattletale
by Helen Ketteman, illustrated by Keith Graves

Armadillo overhears everything with his preposterously large ears, and takes it upon himself to repeat everything that is said...even if he doesn't remember the words exactly. Promising to never do it again and breaking his promise repeatedly, Armadillo finally meets his come-uppance when he tattles on Alligator. The illustrations are just plain goofy, and the twists that armadillo's tattling takes are laugh-out-loud with the read-aloud crowd. Children really responded to the drama of this "pourquoi" tale as well, as the story offers an earful about the Golden Rule as well as why the armadillo runs so fast. 6 and up.

by Jez Alborough

In love, actions speak louder than words, and the love that goes into a hug speaks loud and clear in this almost-wordless picture book. A primate voyeur observes all varieties of jungle-love...who will give the little monkey the cuddles he longs for? His animal friends both feel his pain and help make it all better. The kindergarteners with whom I shared this book giggled at the extremely cute illustrations (I tried to think of a better word than cute, but really, they are just so cute!). When the story was done, they immediately wanted to dramatize it, over and over. A great romance for ages 4 and up.

The Girl Who Lost Her Smile
by Karim Alrawi, illustrated by Stefan Czernecki

When Jehan wakes up one morning to find she has lost her beautiful smile, the people of Baghdad join forces to see that she gets it back, inviting all the greatest artists in the world to come and paint pictures for her. From Italy to China, Tibet to Egypt, no one can succeed, until a young man from Persia subtly shows Jehan that helping others and working hard is the way to feeling better. The story, simply told, is accented by bold, angular illustrations. Inspired by a story from a collection called the Mathnawi by the Turkish poet and mystic Jallal al-Din Rumi, founder of the order of the Whirling Dervish, this is an especially exciting book since there is so little available in children's literature that focuses on the Middle East. It also stands on its own as a quality picture book. 5 and up.

Where Do Balloons Go? An Uplifting Mystery
by Jamie Lee Curtis, illustrated by Laura Cornell

Have you ever lost a balloon and wondered where it went? "Where do they go when they float far away? Do they ever catch cold and need somewhere to stay?" Do they tango with airplanes? Or cha-cha with birds? Can plain balloons read balloons printed with words?" These merry usings are paired with brightly colored illustrations that are as busy and bouncy as the rhymes, and children will cheer for the double-page fold-out spread of the "balloon dance." The mystery of lost balloons is never quite solved, but that's part of the fun...and part of the reasons balloons are chesrished by children for as long as they can hold on. The question in the title is also a great creative writing assignment! 5 and up and up and up!

Jubal's Wish
by Audrey Wood, illustrated by Don Wood

The team that brought such stunning works as The Napping House,, Heckedy Peg and King Bidgood's in the Bathtub,has delivered more eye candy with the story of a smiling little frog who finds his friends are down in the dumps. Jubal's merry mood will be contagious to readers, but unfortunately, Jubal's buddies can't seem to catch his case of the cheeries. When a twist of fate offers Jubal a wish to be granted, he selflessly wishes for his friends to be as happy as he is, only to have his request answered with a ravaging flood. This isn't at all what Jubal asked for...or is it? If a dazzling oversized book perfect for storytime is what you have been wishing for, today is your lucky day. 5 and up.

Hiccup, the Seasick Viking by Cressida Cowell
Sweet and teeny Hiccup isn't much of a Viking, especially next to his burly dad, Stoick the Vast. Hiccup fears going to sea, but his fears are chided. When Hiccup goes to see Old Wrinkly and asks "do Vikings ever get frightened?" the old man doesn't laugh at his fears, but encourages Hiccup to find the answer himself. Nothing ventured, nothing gained is the theme of this book, and children will delight in little Hiccup's triumphs, while poor Stoick is green with seasickness, learning the hard way that the real meaning of bravery isn't living without fear, but rather, not letting fears stand in one's way. Don't miss the great Viking song in the book, the best sea-chanty since "Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Rum!" 5 and up.

The Robots are Coming by Andy Rash
Maybe we should start a new category: books grown-ups hate but kids love. Some teachers cringed at this politically incorrect collection of poetry, but one class made the teacher read this book three times in a row. Verse about voodoo, coffee-drinking robots, hypnotists, clones and the loch ness monster are just a few of the motley crew that grace the pages of this outlandish collection. The artwork is bold and modern with plenty of artsy green-and orange, and the poetry, once you get over the shock of the subject matter, is actually excellent. My favorite is "Werewolf": The moon comes out/and the werewolf shouts,/"TIME TO BE A WOLF/AND ROAM THE FOREST!"/ The moon is gone/and the werewolf yawns,/"Time to be a man/and see the florist."/the victim lies/in the bed and sighs,/"I'll never go out/on another full moon."/ The bouquet has/a card that says,/ "Sorry I attacked you./ Get well soon." The last poem in the book, "Good Night," is reassuring in it's own creepy way. Not for the faint of heart, this snazzy bit of subversive fun reaches its intended audience. 7 to 9 year olds coveted this book, but children both older and younger enjoyed it as well. Not recommended for parochial school collections.

A book with no redeeming value that the children absolutely adored was The Giggler Treatment by New York Times bestselling author Roddy Doyle, which is essentially one hundred and eight pages about a man about to step into poo. The children who heard it seemed to wish it was longer. For my money, I vote for Dav Pilkey's Adventures of Captain Underpants Collection (which now comes in a boxed set with a whoopee cushion), but who am I to judge? We field test these books, and report our findings. For poopy-lovers 6 and up.

The Lion's Share by Chris Conover
This is a book fit for a king...or a prince or princess, as the case may be. When Prince Leo II, a lion, is born with wings on his back, King Leo Golden Mane proclaims, "he will go far!" In fact, little Leo flies so far, he finds himself lost in the fabled land of the polar bear King Otto, who teaches him to read, and sends him back to his own land to deliver leadership through literacy and peace. The oversized illustrations are realistic in detail and whimsical in spirit; my favorite is the double-paged spread of Prince Leo dreaming of Noah's Ark, animals marching two by two out of the pages of Leo's book. The end-papers are a whole alphabet of classics from children's literature; can you guess what each letter stands for? The Lion's Share offers an elephant's share of excellence and beauty, clearly executed with the highest standards in mind. Children of all ages, on a lap or in a large group, will love this book. Ages 5 and up.

River Friendly, River Wild
by Jane Kurtz, illustrated by Neil Brennan

Based on memories of living through the Grand Forks, North Dakota flood, the author uses free verse to carry the reader through the confusion, horror and hope of a community in the throes of survival. The dramatic story is complimented through muted paintings of fire and water, submerged homes, rescued Christmas ornaments and Red Cross trucks. This realistic, haunting book succeeds in being sensitive without saccharine. This title will surely move any empathetic reader, and teachers will find an easy connection with natural disaster studies and weather units. Ages 7 and up.

Henry Hikes to Fitchburg by D.B. Johnson
Slow and steady wins the race...and enjoys a good stroll in this story inspired by a passage from Henry David Thoreau's Walden. Young readers will root for the two bears as they make their way to Fitchburg, one by working for a train ticket, one by walking and delighting the world around him. Contemporary, angular illustrations with matte blues, greens and golds compliment the text, and will please the eye page after page. Ages 6 and up.

Gift Horse by S.D. Nelson
Whether Storm is taking his horse Flying Cloud through a blizzard, doing a Buffalo Dance around a fire or reeling under the constellations on a vision quest, every page absolutely glows with action and beauty and the story of this young Lakota's coming of age is told with the pacing of a horse's smooth cantor. This book is a feast of variety, and does not suffer for one moment through a monotony of illustration, pages looking similar to the ones before...instead, each page is a fresh step into Storm's coming of age, and both picture and text are alive with color. While this book is sophisticated in many ways, it can be enjoyed on many levels; children as young as five will be compelled along with a twelve year old. This book is a plain delight, and a welcome addition to the body of Native American literature; let's hope S.D. Nelson will be as prolific as Paul Goble!

Gershon's Monster by Eric Kimmel,
illustrated by John J. Muth

I have to admit, I balked a little when I first read this story, simply because the story was so exciting and so intense and the illustrations so dramatic, I wondered if it would be too much for the children. But the verdict is in and Gershon rates a unanimous thumbs-up! (I should always trust Eric Kimmel, did I ever meet a child who didn't love Herschel and the Hannukah Goblins ?) Gershon the baker makes mistakes, and why not? He's only human. Gershon's biggest mistake, though, comes from never saying he's sorry, never feeling regret. When Gershon and his wife are blessed with beautiful children, all of Gershon's thoughtless acts (which he had been sweeping into the cellar and dragging down to sea) seek to teach him a lesson...will Gershon change in time to save his children? A real page-turner of a picture book, it is subtitled "A Story for the Jewish New Year," but it is exciting any time of year, and a fine folk tale to celebrate the nomination of our first Jewish vice-president!

Buttons by Brock Cole
Buttons, buttons, who's got the buttons? When an old man's buttons burst, three valiant daughters devise clever and not-so-clever plans to replace the valuable buttons. This book is one of the most satisfying all year, with the language and romance of a fairy tale, and with lovely, sketchy illustrations that are perfectly married to the text. The double-page wedding spread at the end is a feast for the eyes, perfect closure. There are no holes in Buttons, and no bookshelf should be without this splendid and potentially classic volume.
Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type
by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Betsy Lewin

"Click, clack, moo. Click, clack, moo." The cows on Farmer Brown's farm have gotten hold of a typewriter, and he's none too happy. They have joined forces with the hens, and it's no milk and no eggs until they get some electric blankets. With the help of Duck as a neutral party, can a deal be negotiated between the farmer and his livestock? This wacky story has a very level-headed theme about the power of communication. Mooove to the library as fast as you can to find this book that is sure to be your type of reading! Ages 4 and up.

Nine for California by Sonia Levitin,
illustrated by Cat Bowman Smith

"What good is gold, without my family?" That's what Pa says in a letter, in which he encloses all the money he has in the world, sending Mama and five "young 'uns" on a twenty-one day journey by stagecoach to California. In Mama's mysterious flour sack are all the necessities for the long ride, and whenever young Amanda wishes something would happen, it does, with adventurous results. The rustic cartoons are full of action and humor, and the earthtoned watercolors effectively carry across the dusty west. Don't miss this reading ride into frontier life!

The Feet in the Gym by Teri Daniels,
illustrated by Travis Foster

This book celebrates the great underdog of the school, the custodian! Handy Bob takes great pride in his job, wiping and washing and craping and scrubbing until the school shines, but begins to feel a little "walked on" as he wrangles with the footprints of everyone from the shuffling kindergarteners to a troupe of ballet-dancing kids to a soccer team to (gasp!) the art class goodness...the marching band! How will poor Bob ever get the floor clean? The story is hilarious and a perfect read aloud, with an underlying message of persistence and pride ina job well done. The book production is outstanding, with super-glossy parts to the pages that actually makes the footprints look wet! I can't wait to have kids make their own paint footprints to lead them into their new classroom...or should I write new students' names on the feet and use them for a bulletin board featuring Handy Bob? Run, don't walk to get this book... for laughs and creative extensions, other read-alouds might very well "pail" in comparison! Ages 6 and up.

The Fungus That Ate My School
by Arthur Dorros, illustrated by David Catrow

IT started as a harmless experiment in a grade school science class. IT was left alone over spring break. IT grew. Every principal's nightmare is every child's dream as IT takes over the school, glooping and glopping from room to room until the Fungus Unit (Fungus Unit?!?) is finally called. Don't worry, the science teacher has promised no more fungus among us...until next year! Catrow's witty and colorful illustrations put the fun in fungus, depicting IT being shushed in the library, and the librarian, Mr. Page, fainting away. "End of Page." This book will grow on you! 7 and up.

There's a Zoo in Room 22
by Judy Sierra, illustrated by Barney Saltzberg

When the class asks Miss Darling for a pet, the children are treated to a poetic trip through the alphabet, with a class critter for every letter. For example, letter E: "Please don't ask to feel/our electric eel,/because, if you bug him,/we cannot unplug him." I had the pleasure of seeing Judy Sierra read some of the poems in person. It takes a really gifted writer to maintain the energy and humor of the poems all the way from A to Z, but how could we expect anything but an "A+" performance from the author of the beloved Counting Crocodiles? 7 and up.

Miss Alaineus: A Vocabulary Disaster by Debra Frasier
When Sage is home sick, she misunderstands her vocabulary assignment and creatively defines "miscellaneous," only to have her mistake revealed publicly at the Vocabulary Bee. The very definition of embarassment! Sage's redemption at the Vocabulary Day Parade will leave readers cheering, and I was cheering to come across a picture book that is just right for a read aloud for older kids. The book is oversized with illustrations done by the author using what she found in her daughter's fifth grade desk! The end-papers are a word search, to boot. Miss Alaineus is a perfect compliment to one of my favorite start-of-school read-alouds, Frindle by Andrew Clements, just released in paperback. Both books great for ages 8 and up. Vive la vocabulary!

Miss Bindergarten Stays Home from Kindergarten
by Joseph Slate, illustrated by Ashley Wolff

Miss Bindergarten is out of commission due to the flu, and her class gets four-star substitute Mr. Tusky while their teacher recuperates. Children who are new to the school experience are gently and reassuringly introduced to the new situation of teacher absence. I can't decide which gorgeous, bold illustration is my favorite: turtles playing "Chutes and Ladders," a hippo tucked in bed playing with plastic dinosaurs or Miss Bindergarten's trusty cockatiel cooking and feeding her vegetable soup. Move over, Miss Frizzle, I think Miss Bindergarten is going to sweep "teacher of the year!" If you have already read Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten and Miss Bindergarten Celebrates the 100th Day of Kindergarten, you know Miss Bindergarten doesn't just get well, she gets better and better and better!

Bertie's Picture Day Pat Brisson
Bertie has been instructed by his second grade teacher to "look spiffy" on Monday for "picture day," but Bertie manages to lose a front tooth, get a black eye and receives a "terribly interesting" haircut from his little sister Eloise, an aspiring hairdresser. The short, satisfying sections of the book will leave young readers with a sense of achievement; it really is perfect for children, like Bertie, who are in the second grade. The sibling relationship in this book is hilarious and true to life, as is the current of family love and acceptance that well leave you a little red-eyed, picture or not! This book is dedicated to "family pictures, especially funny ones, and every heart that holds them dear," and I know this book is one you will hold dear as well!

Something Beautiful
by Sharon Dennis Wyeth, illustrated by Chris Soentpeit

If you liked my piece in the May issue of Reader's Digest, you will love this book! A girl in a poor neighborhood looks through her window and sees homelessness, graffiti, danger and decay. One day at school, her teacher spells out the word "beautiful," or "something that when you have it, your heart is happy." This inspires the girl to go on a treasure hunt to find what is beautiful in her neighborhood. She finds plenty, and best of all, she finds the ability within herself to make a difference. There is plenty that is beautiful in this book: the realistic watercolors, the author's note at the end, and the empowering message that there is hope for urban America. Even though this book was published in 1998, it was a bit of a "sleeper," and I am including it here now because I would hate for you to miss out on something beautiful. Ages 7 and up.

Lost!: A Story in String
by Paul Fleischman, illustrated by C. B. Mordan

A lightning storm hits, and knocks out the power. No TV! No VCR! No radio! No computer! "I'll die!" moans the nine-year-old girl. But Grandmother has the perfect remedy for a night without electricity: a story, told with a loop of yarn and a stretch of memory. Grandmother recounts a story of a poor mountain girl who "didn't own one store bought toy," but instead twisted and turned a piece of string and used her imagination until it resembled things in her everyday life. When the girl's beloved dog runs away, she hunts for it in the woods, only to find herself lost, dependent on her resourcefulness. The young listener is excited to discover by the end of the story that the girl was her own grandmother, and that she, too, can make the "string art" that Grandmother used to tell the story. A compelling adventure, complimented by bold ink on clayboard illustrations that give the book an old-fashioned feel. Students also will be motivated to use the detailed directions included in the back of the book to create the string figures depicted throughout the story, so the next time the power is out, your students will be able to look to their powers within to spin an exciting "yarn," just like Grandmother. Ages 6 and up.

How Are You Peeling? Foods with Moods
by Saxton Freymann and Joost Elffers

Emotions go more than skin deep with this salad bar of sentiment. Treymann and Elfers have created a chef d'oerve of children's literature, with their wholly original photographs of fruits and vegetables feeling shy, bold, impatient, jealous, pouting, screaming, kissing, smiling! Thanks to it's interrogative format (my favorite is "Wired? Tired? Need a kiss? / Do you know anyone like this?") and the gamut of emotions explored, this is a book that will leave readers in a great mood over and over. Besides, you will never look at a green pepper quite the same way again. Break out the black-eyed peas and try making your own "foods with moods" with your child! Ages 4 and up.

If How Are You Peeling whets your appetite, try Freymann and Elffers latest chef d'oerve, One Lonely Seahorse. Again, using the treasures of the produce section, this team recreates an underwater paradise in which one lonely swimmer finds a sea full of friends he...and your young listener...can count on! My favorite is the octopus made of a banana peel, or is it the lobster made of ginger root? Reading was never so delicious. Read-aloud at the beach! Ages 3 and up.

Weslandia by Paul Fleischman,
illustrated by Kevin Hawkes

This tale is about how sticking to your individuality can ultimately make you the leader of your team. Young renegade Wesley plans his own civilization using the mysterious crop that he has cultivated in his backyard. In the process, Wesley changes his community's perspective of the world...and of himself. This book lends itself to classroom extensions at many grade levels, whether real research projects on the impact of natural resources to countries or the more creative assignment that Wesley gave himself...starting a society of one's own, complete with languages and sports! Kevin Hawkes' bold and imaginative artwork, with colors as lush as any farmer's market, are the perfect compliment to this inspired...and inspiring...story of how one boy spent his summer vacation. (6 and up)

Hooway for Wodney Wat
by Helen Lester,
Illustrated by Lynn Munsinger

Poor Rodney Rat can't pronounce his R's, which is a problem if you're a wodent...I mean rodent. But when big bully Camilla Capybera comes to class, it's wonderful Wodney's wit that puts her in her place. What a great wead aloud! While on the subject of illustrator Lynn Munsinger, check out Wanted: Best Friend by A.M. Monson, in which Cat advertises for a new amigo, and learns the hard way that new friends may be silver, but old friends are gold! Children will love creating their own advertisements, and writing about what qualities they look for in a friend, and what qualities make them a friend in return. As usual, Lynn Munsinger's animal illustrations are at once hilarious and sensitive, putting her in the ranks of Caldecott winner Kevin Henkes. (5 and up)

Don't Make Me Laugh! by James Stevenson
Funnybones, prepared to be tickled! We are warned early on, "Do not laugh. Do not even smile. If you laugh or smile, you will have to go back to the front of the book." But who could ever resist a chuckle as Pierre, the excellent waiter, is tickled by the reader's finger and drops an enormous plate of food? Or a guffaw as the reader's gentle breathing causes an elephant to sneeze? Or a howl as a little of the reader's humming causes a hippopotamus to dance through a fancy glass store? Illustrated in a relaxed cartoon-style, Don't Make Me Laugh is a great study of cause and effect, of vaudeville, and of a perfect interactive book for children. This book will have you crying...tears of laughter. (3 and up, and up, and up!)

My Name Is Not Gussie by Mikki Machlin
Reminiscences of a hundred-year-old grandmother's experience as a Jewish Russian immigrant girl shine through first-personvignettes, each one funny, frightening and moving in turn. The storytelling voice is so personal, turning the last page of the book is truly like saying goodbye to a only complaint, if I might be a "kvetch" like Tante Feindele in the story, is that it left me wanting more, hundreds of pages worth! As it stands, it is a perfect picture book for older children, with an especially attractive layout: each double-page spread offering on one side a two-column anecdote and on the other a brightly-colored, detailed watercolor. Text and illustration are married perfectly to create this celebration of the American experience that no book-loving classroom or household should be without. (8 and up)

For another book that's got the heart without the schmaltz, check out Mimmy & Sophie by Miriam Cohen, illustrated by Thomas Yezerski. The book is "dedicated to Brooklyn and the Little Mimmy I once was," and offers four memories from the Depression featuring Mimmy and her little sister Sophie. Besides being sensitive studies in sibling relationships, through all the stories run an undercurrent of appreciation for the small joys in life. The book is generously illustrated with sketchy pen-and-ink drawings in the style of old-time etchings. Reading this book produced the same satisying feeling one gets watching an old black-and-white movie on a rainy Sunday afternoon. (5 and up)

Benny's Had Enough! by Barbro Lindgren, illustrated by Olof Landstrolm
"Benny thinks everything is the pits," begins this story of a pig and his doll who runs away from the confines of his mother's rules and requests into an adventurous world of hot dog stands, cell phones and computers. When Benny's beloved doll is lost in a mud-hole, however, mother starts looking pretty good. Despite the modern touches, the master Lindgren manages to tell a classic tale of rebellion and redemption, and I'll bet you a ham sandwich that one reading won't be enough of Benny. (3 and up, my son's favorite when he was 4!)
The S.S. Gigantic Across the Atlantic by Peter Selgin
This is a tall tale, or rather, a tremendous one, of a ship that is so gigantic that "you can't fit it in a picture," so gigantic that it can travel around the world without moving, so gigantic it has a swimming pool for other ships. The most gigantic aspect of this book, however, is the pure imagination that went into it, prefectly conveyed through the eyes of Pipsqueak, the S.S. Gigantic's tiny lookout. 5 and up; an unsinkable choice for reluctant readers.
The Grannyman by Judith Byron Schachner
Mee-WOW! The expressive studies of a cat in action in this book rival the sensitivity of Robert McCloskey's classic Make Way for Ducklings. This is the story of old Simon, blind and deaf and bones creaking, but very much a member of the family and very much an important help when it comes to teaching a kitten the ways of the world. This book, with it's dynamic illustrations and elevated writing, celebrates the value of all life while simultaneously celebrating the genre of the picture book to its fullest. For cat lovers and book lovers alike. (5 and up)
Tasty Baby Belly Buttons by Judy Sierra, illustrated by Meilo So
Moms and Dads all know how delicious baby belly buttons are. Unfortunately, the terrible Onis have also discovered this scrumptious delicacy, and steal all the babies away! Uriko-hime, or "melon princess," is born inside a watermelon (notice her pink and black kimono!) and grows up to rescue the toddlers in trouble. Featuring a strong female lead, this Japanese folktale-adventure is paced just right for a lively storytime with lots of good chanting (like the Onis' "Belly buttons/Belly buttons/Tasty Baby Belly Buttons!"). Serve butterscotch candies or some other small round treat at the end and call them belly buttons! Or, crack open a watermelon and see what's inside (probably seeds, but you never know)! (5 and up)

Little Oh
by Laura Krauss Melmed,
illustrated by Jim LaMarche

One of the most popular books in the school library was The Rainbabies by this dynamic team, so I was very excited that they joined forces again to create this magical original folktale. A daughter, Little Oh, is constructed out of origami by a lonely woman. Through a series of adventures, Little Oh is separated by her beloved creator, only to be reunited in a surprise ending. I also like this book because it portrays step-parents in a tender light. (6 and up)

If you like Little Oh, you will also enjoy The Paper Princess by Elisa Kleven. In this story, a little girl draws her own princess out of paper, only to have it carried away by the wind. The Paper Princess is returned home after a blow through town. The collage illustrations are like watching a fireworks show, or looking over a crazy quilt; you see something new every time. This book is a real celebration of creativity. (5 and up)

Martha Walks the Dog by Susan Meddaugh
Martha the talking dog once again teaches readers about the tremendous power of words...especially kind ones! The villain of the story, a vicious neighbor dog, gets a mental makeover when his master puts a muzzle on the meanness and decides to give compliments instead. Teachers, if you want to stop put-downs in your class, give this book a spin. Also, present this book to the critic in your life, maybe s/he'll get the hint! (5 and up)

Things That Are Most in the World by Judi Barrett, illustrated by John Nickle

What is the silliest thing in the world? The quietest? The smelliest? What is the funniest book in the world? It may very well be this one! Things That Are Most in the World deserves superlative reviews, and lends itself beautifully to creative writing and language arts lessons. Make your own book of "mosts!" (4 and up)

Yoko by Rosemary Wells

When Yoko brings sushi for lunch at school, the teasing ensues. Good-intentioned Mrs. Jenkins tries to alleviate the situation with an International Food Day, but it is not until an epicurian classmate steps up that Yoko feels truly accepted. The story does a masterful job of resolving the conflict in a realistic way, and the cunning animal illustrations are both funny and emotionally insightful. I never thought Rosemary Wells would be able to surpass her masterpiece Max's Dragon Shirt, but she has proven me wrong. (4 and up)

Other Fine Picture Book Favorites:

Yum! Yuck! A Foldout Book of People Sounds by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Julia Durango (Charlesbridge) (How do people sneeze, laugh, cry, shout hooray all over the world? Darling illustrations punctuate the onomatopoeia that brings cultures together.) (4 and up)
Earth Mother by Ellen Jackson, illustrated by Leon and Diane Dillon (Walker) (Man, Frog and Mosquito have a lot of complaints, but Earth Mother understands the balance of nature better than they do and chuckles away. Great for integrating into science lessons!) (4 and up)
The Neat Line Scribbling Through Mother Goose by Pamela Duncan Edwards, illustrated by Diana Cain Blumenthal (HarperCollins) (In the spirit of Harold and the Purple Crayon,a renegade line travels through the land of nursery rhymes, making itself useful.) (4 and up)
Looking After Little Ellie by Dosh and Mike Archer (Bloomsbury) (Six mice must babysit a darling little elephant.) (3 and up)
I'll See You in the Morning by Mike Jolley and Mique Moriuchi (Chronicle) (This reassuring little bedtime wish reads like a hug and a kiss.) (3 and up)
The Last Badge by George McClements (Hyperion) (A boy scout must decide if he's up to the challenge of earning the coveted Moon Frog Badge. Lively and funny with a twist, this is also a cunning title about conservation.) (5 and up)
Cornelius P. Mud, Are You Ready for Bed? by Barney Saltzberg (Candlewick) (Fans of David Shannon's naughty No David will appreciate thislittle piggy who accomodates his mother in his own special way.) (3 and up)
The Hello, Goodbye Window by Norton Juster, illustrated by Chris Raschka (Hyperion) (Join in this cozy visit to grandparents' house. A breakthrough effort by the author of the classic novel The Phantom Tollbooth). (4 and up)
The Magic Rabbit by Richard Jesse Watson (Scholastic, Blue Sky Press) (Will it take a magic trick for the rabbit in the hat to make a friend?) (4 and up)
Monster Pet by Angela McAllister, illustrated by Charlotte Middleton (McElderberry) (Oooo, things go awry when we don't take care of our animals.) (5 and up)
Under My Hood, I Have a Hat byKarla Kuskin, illustrated by Fumi Kosaka (HarperCollins) (Charming getting-dressed rhyme for winter, with crisp, bold illustrations.) (3 and up)
Lights Out by Arthur Geisert (Houghton Mifflin) (Rube Goldberg would be proud of this little piggy, who invents the best hand-free way to turn off the lights since "The Clapper." Largely wordless, but the pictures are worth at least a thousand!) (5 and up)

Goha, The Wise Fool by Denys Johnson-Davies, illustrated by Hag Hamdy and Hany (Philomel) (Fetching picture book collection of noodlehead folktales based on the popular Middle Eastern hero. Tentmakers sewed these unique illustrations!) (5 and up)
Nacho and Lolita by Pam Munoz Ryan, illustrated by Claudia Rueda (Scholastic) (Love story between a lone pitacoche and a migrating swallow.) (6 and up)
The Magic Rabbit by Richard Jesse Watson (Scholastic) (Can the rabbit pull a friend out of that hat? Vibrant, oversized illustrations make this an especially magical storytime choice.) (3 and up)
Shlemiel Crooks by Anna Olswanger, illustrated by Paula Goodman Koz (Junebug) (Magical realism is the storytelling device here, and it's just what is needed to foil the plot of two nogoodniks out to spoil Passover celebrations.) (6 and up)
A Grand Old Tree by Mary Newell DePalma (Scholastic) (The life cycle of a tree gets a stylized treatment.) (6 and up)
If You Give a Pig a Party by Laura Numeroff, illustrated by Felicia Bond (HarperCollins) (Latest in the popular series of cause-and-effect stories.) (3 and up)
The Baby on the Way by Karen English, illustrated by Sean Qualls (Farrar Straus and Giroux) (A grandmother prepares her grandson for the new arrival using her own recollections of her girlhood in a sharecropping family. Stunning folk art is museum quality.) (5 and up)
What's Going On In There? by Geoffery Grahn (Orchard) (Ever wonder what goes on behind the windows of apartment buildings? This guessing book will keep pages turning. Imagination: top floor!) (4 and up)
A New House for Mouse by Petr Horacek (Candlewick) (It's fun helping mouse find his new house through these vibrant die-cut pages. ) (3 and up)
Blueberries for the Queen by John and Katherine Paterson, illustrated by Susan Jeffers (HarperCollins) (Based on the author's experience of meeting the Netherlands' Queen Wilhelmina in 1942 on a New England farm.) (3 and up)
So Happy! by Kevin Henkes, illustrated by Anita Lobel (Greenwillow) (Two giants of children's lit team up to create three simultaneous stories that converge to create a happy ending.) (4 and up)
No Haircut Today! by Elivia Savadier (Roaring Brook) (An especially sensitive portrayal of this rite of passage. Mothers who give in to their children's complaints will especially enjoy this book! Realistic, empathetic, and full of love.) (3 and up)
Flusi the Sock Monster by Bine Brandle (Kane/Miller) (The little sock monster doesn't appreciate being trated like a toy. Expressive illustrations really bring this flight of fancy to life.) (4 and up)
Ther Bora-Bora Dress by Carole Lexa Schaefer, illustrated by Catherine Stock (Candlewick) (For every little girl who has had trouble picking out what to wear to a party, this one's for you.) (5 and up)
The Have a Good Day Cafe by Frances and Ginger Park, illustrated by Katherine Potter (Lee & Low) (Mike makes a clever culinary choice in order to solve the problem of his parent's failing food cart and his grandmother's homesickness. This story featuring immigrants from Korea has a lot of meat to it!) (6 and up)
Stop This Birthday! by Rowan Cutler, illustrated by Elizabeth McClellan (Chronicle) (The birthday fairy grants Zephyr's wish of a birthday every day,with wild results.) (5 and up)

You Read to Me, I'll Read to You : Very Short Fairy Tales to Read Together by Mary Ann Hoberman , illustrated by Ed Emberley (Little, Brown) (Companion to You Read to Me, I'll Read to You , here are fairy- tale vignettes in two voices so that you and your emergent reader can take turns. Great concept, great execution that makes reading practice painless!) (5 and up)
The Princess Knight by Cornelia Funke, illustrated by Kerstin Meyer (Scholastic, Chicken House) (A joust to win a reticent's princess's hand yields unexpected results.) (5 and up)
Hot, Hot, Hot by Neil Layton (Candlewick) (Two wonky woolly mammoths have to make a lifestyle adjustment when the Ice Age ends. Wild artwork!) (4 and up)
Wallace's Lists by Barbara Bottner and Gerald Kruglik, illustrated by Olof Landström (HarperCollins) (Can a slightly obsessive-compulsive mouse make room on his agenda for adventures with a friend?) (5 and up)
Me Baby, You Baby by Ashley Wolff (Dutton) (An African-American baby and a Caucasian baby have a busy day at the city zoo. Lovely gauche illustrations make it extra fun to find all of the animals listed at the front of the book.) (2 and up)
Magic Thinks Big by Elisha Cooper (This fact cat is king of the couch potatoes! Procrastinators will appreciate Magic's careful weighing of all his options in this lovely, lazy book.) (5 and up)
Neil's Castle Alissa Imre Geis (Viking) (Neil is frustrated by a vivid dream he has of a castle. How can he make his dream come true? When building blocks don't cut it, Neil comes up with an imaginative solution that is sure to inspire young artists.) (5 and up)
Subway by Anastasia Suen, illustrated by Karen Katz (Viking) (The rhythmic energy of a ride in the underground tunnel is captured in this multicultural tribute to a city-living rite of passage. Vibrant textile patterns make this more sunny than scary. A great way to experience the subway: no smells!) (5 and up)
When It's the Last Day of School by Maribeth Boelts, Hanako Wakiyama (Philomel) (An energetic and impulsive little boy determines how to earn Mrs. Bremwood's last gold star of the year. Better late than never, James! An true-to-life picture book that captures the best of intentions as well as the anticipation for that last bell. While there may be no more homework and no more teacher's dirty looks, there are more books; you can also use Last Day, Hooray! by Nancy Poydar (Holiday House) for a summer springboard celebration.) (5 and up)
The Perfect Clubhouse by Daniel J. Mahoney (Clarion) (Four friends build more than a clubhouse when they have to work as a team.) (5 and up)
The Ugly Truckling by David Gordon (HarperCollins) (A take-off, quite literally, on the Ugly Duckling story, about a little truck who is destined to fly. This funny, friendly story with beautiful broad-brush illustrations is a great ride for the transportation-loving set!) (4 and up)
When You Were Just a Heartbeat by Laurel Molk (Little, Brown) (Even in utero, the wonderful world is waiting for baby. Watercolors of the natural world against a white background makes this an elegant shower or coming-home-from-the hospital gift.) (5 and up)
If I Were a Lion by Sarah Weeks, illustrated by Heather M. Solomon (Atheneum) (Wild? Qui, moi? While having a time-out, this daughter uses her time productively by using the animal kingdom to teach her mother the real meaning of the word. Exquisite watercolor and gouche illustrations.) (4 and up)
Violet's Music by Angela Johnson, illustrated by Laura Huliska-Beith (Dial) (Violet is born with the beat, but it's awhile before she finds friends to join in her groove! A hip story about a creative person trying to find other creative people. ) (5 and up)
Kitten's First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes (Greenwillow) (The midnight romp of an inquisitive kitten is illuminated by black, white and silver.) (3 and up)
Isty Bitsy the Smart Spider by Charise Mericle Harper (Dial) (Once spider, twice a fool as this clever arachnid comes up with a plan not to get washed out the water spout any more. Jaunty new lyrics to the traditional song make this a must-have for preschool programs.) (3 and up)
Up in Heaven by Emma Chichester Clark (Doubleday) (Possibly the most comforting of all dead-dog stories, the beloved family pet looks down from a better place, and roots for his heartbroken young owner to make choices that will allow him to move on. Not too sectarian and not at all saccharine, here is the story you wish you could have written yourself to help a child deal with loss. Clark's illustrations, as always, are upbeat and expressive. ) (4 and up)
Our Nest by Reeve Lindbergh, illustrated by Jill McElderberry (Candlewick) (The animal kingdom is all snug in their many kinds of nests, a child is snug in the nest of his mother's arms, and we are all snug in our nest of earth's creation. Matte gouche illustrations evocative of our favorite old "Golden Books" carry us from the cozy confines of a bedroom into the spinning galaxies that nest the sun and stars and back again. A beautiful book about the natural world and ways we are interconnected. ) (4 and up)
I.Q. Goes to the Library by Mary Ann Fraser (Walker) (It's Library Week, and our favorite class pet doesn't miss the opportunity to celebrate, day by day. This excellent exploration of all that the library has to offer is a great way to start off your summer reading program or to commemorate a first library card! Every bit as good as I.Q. Goes to School, which was pretty great.) (5 and up)
I Love You, Mister Bear by Sylvie Wickstrom (HarperCollins) (A special friend is rescued from a yard sale during a walk with Daddy.) (4 and up)
Swing Otto Swing by David Milgrim (Atheneum) (In the tradition of Rita Golden Gelman's wonderful Why Can't I Fly? comes this simplest reader that will help children with sight-word recognition while rooting for the robot who is trying to match the talents of his primate pals.) (4 and up)
Chip and the Karate Kick by Anne Rockwell, illustrated by Paul Meisel (HarperCollins) (It takes more than a ferocious karate chop to be a yellow belt, as Chip learns from his wise sensei in the dojo. A great pick for any aspiring martial artist!) (5 and up)
The King is Naked by Bruno Gibert (Clarion) (When a lion slips out of his skin, he has to make a promise before he slips back in. What goes around comes around in this comical fable.) (4 and up)

Thunder Rose by Jerdine Nolen, illustrated by Kadir Nelson (Beware, storms, you're no match for this African-American tall tale heroine!) (6 and up)
Mucky Duck by Sally Grindley, illustrated by Neal Layton (Children can mess up vicariously as this splashy duck splays and plays with a lukcy little boy.) (4 and up)
Reginald by Jeff Newman (Absolutely goofy story of a bull who took a wrong turn at the Amazon, but manages to befriend the better part of his predators by offering swimming lessons.) (5 and up)
Busy, Busy Moose by Nancy Van Laan, illustrated by Amy Rusch (Follow Thidwick's cousin year round as he finds helpful things to do. Gotta love Rusch's illustrations, reminiscent of James Marshall! Good choice for emergent readers. ) (5 and up)
Sherman Crunchley by Laura Numeroff and Kate Evans, illustrated by Tim Bowers (Sherman's just a dog who can't say no, which is a problem, since he's lined up to be the next chief of police when he really wants to be a milliner. Step up, Sherman, and say something!) (5 and up)
The English Roses by Madonna, illustrated by Jeffrey Fulvimari (Not that the Material Girl needs any more marketing, but I do want to give a shout out to illustrator Fulvimari whose name does not appear on the cover of this book and whose pictures of little girls are absolutely delicious. Hope to see more from him, and with the credit he deserves!) (7 and up)
What a Hat! by Holly Keller (Newton covets his chapeau, with varying degrees of understanding from his cousins. Will he ever get comfortable enough to take it off?) (5 and up)
Baya, Baya, Lulla-by-a by Megan McDonald, illustrated by Vera Rosenberry As the baya bird of India sings it's tune, so does a mother croon a lullaby to her little one. Listen in! Lovely elongated figures and small jeweled detail grace this song of motherly love. Includes glossary of Hindi words.) (4 and up) Also, check out Megan McDonald's other recent release, Penguin and Little Blue, illustrated by Katherine Tillotson, about two arctic friends who have a hard time getting comfortable in hotels. You can really travel around the world with this author! (5 and up)
Monsoon by Uma Krishnaswami, illustrated by Jamel Akib (Stormy weather is awaited and celebrated on the steamy city streets of India. Be sure to visit the author's thoughtful on-line peace page as well!) (5 and up)
What Do You Dream? by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel, illustrated by Joung Un Kim (What does the wind dream? The clouds and the rain? The flowers and the butterfly? What is the dream of the earth? Find out in this pensive piece, perfect for quiet times when your own child is floating into dreamland.) (3 and up)
Ruler of the Courtyard by Rukhsana Khan, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie (Saba's no chicken when it comes to dealing with the poultry in her yard! Use this book for character studies about bravery.) (5 and up)
The Family Book by Todd Parr (Every kind of family is celebrated here in Parr's stock, silly style. Diversity reigns, but special attention is given to the bonds that we all have in common. Sure to promote tolerance and understanding.) (5 and up)
Hey, Pancakes! by Stephen Gammell, illustrated by Tamson Weston (This splashy, rhythmic picture book romp is this perfect pick for a breakfast read-aloud. You won't be able to see the syrup stains through all the messy morning glory!) (3 and up)
My Lucky Day by Keiko Kasza (Pig certainly knocked on the wrong door, for a hungry fox has answered! Or was it all part of a precarious plan? A trickster story that starts with a worry and ends with a wink.) (5 and up)
Just for Me, Just for You by the editors of Nick Jr. (Twenty authors and illustrators collaborated to create a collection of charming vignettes just perfect for children who are just learning to read. We could do without the advertising inset, guys, but the stories themselves are just perfect for their purpose.) (5 and up)
Bruna by Anne Cottringer, illustrated by Gillian McClure (Joyful book about a chilly girl whose friendship with a playful bruin serves as her soul's hot-water bottle. Absolutely divine watercolor illustrations bring master Lizbeth Zwerger to mind.) (5 and up)
Serious Farm by Tim Egan (Farmer Brown may not smile much, but you won't be able to stop laughing when you share this story about a bunch who abandon their barnyard in search of funnier pastures.) (5 and up)
My Grandson is a Genius By Giles Andreae, illustrated by Sue Hellard (A doting grandfather celebrates a child's talents, and sees in him all the things he hopes the world will see.) (3 and up, and grandparents of any age!)
Poinsettia and the Firefighters by Felicia Bond (Firefighters are community helpers who are awake all night in this reassuring story about a girl getting used to her new room.) (4 and up)
There Was an Old Woman Who Lived in a Boot by Linda Smith, illustrated by Jane Manning (The magic "Kiddie-Be-Gone" potion backfires on a curmudgeonly neighbor in this nursery rhyme knock-off.) (4 and up)
Raccoon Tune by Nancy Shaw, illustrated by Howard Fine (Raccoons raise a midnight ruckus.) (4 and up)
Simeon's Quest by Julie Andrews Edwards and Emma Walton Hamilton, illustrated by Gennady Spirin (A minstrel goes on a quest to find a song in his heart, a fitting topic for a book by legendary siren. CD included, of course; who can resist Andrew's voice, whether singing or speaking? Spirin's illustrations belong in a museum. ) (3 and up)
Three Nasty Gnarlies by Keith Graves (Snooty Judy Butterfly gives three ugly bugglies a complex, but after an unsuccessful attempt at metamorphosis they decide to accept that beauty is only skin deep. A silly, sophisticated rhyming story with a scientific touch.) (6 and up)
Full, Full, Full of Love by Trish Cooke, illustrated by Paul Howard (Sunday dinner at Grandma's house is the place for good eats and good cuddles!) (5 and up)
Two eggs, please. By Sarah Weeks, illustrated by Besty Lewin (A short order cook and a foxy waitress deliver eggs a multitude of ways. Are the customers so different as the orders they place? A provocative and comic commentary from the duo that wowed us with Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type.) (5 and up)
Centipede's 100 Shoes by Tony Ross (A friendly anthropod shares his shoes after a hundred turn out to be a little more than he can handle. A perfect fit for children who are just learning to tie shoes!) (4 and up)
Super Sue by Cressida Cowell, illustrated by Russell Ayto (Super Sue can do so many helpful things around the house, things that show she is growing every day, and things that you child may be able to do, since your child is super, too! A lively pop-up that comes with a "certificate of superness" that you can pass along to a special someone. So nice to see a book about self-esteem that is so genuinely super instead of solicitous!) (3 and up)
Once Upon a Time by Niki Daly (Set in South Africa, a young girl is able to overcome the hard edge of her reading difficulties by focusing on the story of Cinderella. An unusual picture book about learning at your own pace. ) (5 and up)
A-Tisket, A-Tasket by Ella Fitzgerald, illustrated by Ora Eitan (Start snapping those fingers and get ready to scat along with Ella's famous nursery-rhyme lyric, cunningly illustrated in cut-paper collage. Put it in your shopping basket!) (4 and up)
Night Walk by Jill Newsome, illustrated by Claudio Munoz (Introvert kitty decides to venture out for a nighttime stroll in the park with her canine companion, and finds adventure lurks at every turn. An exciting story about moving outside one's comfort zone. Munoz's illustrations are whimsical and expressive; I think he is the new Marc Simont.) (5 and up)
First Year Letters by Julie Danneberg, illustrated by Judy Love (Peek in the mail of a classroom post office to follow an active classroom through their school year. Full of detail that may be painfully recognizable to some professionals, this charming book is a perfect end-of-year present for your favorite first-year teacher, or for introducing students to letter-writing skills.) (7 and up)
Lunchtime for a Purple Snakeby Harriet Ziefert, illustrated by Todd McKie (Jessica spends an afternoon alongside her artist grandfather, learning how to compose the perfect painting. In a few simple strokes, this book captures the joy of creating artwork.) (5 and up)
Mama's Coming Home by Kate Banks, illustrated by Tomek Bohgacki. (A house-husband and his family eagerly await the return of Mama from the office, who is just as eager to get there! Children with working parents will especially appreciate this colorful tribute to the reunion at the end of the day.) (5 and up)
Annie Rose is My Little Sister by Shirley Hughes (Frustrations and friendliness realistically portayed by a picture book genius. So nice to see the love between siblings underscored instead of the rivalry. ) (4 and up)
A Bird About to Sing by Laura Nyman Montenegro (A young poet finds it hard to share her work at a public reading, but in time is able to find her voice. Based on the author's own experience.) (6 and up)
The Sea Chest by Toni Buzzeo, illustrated by Mary Grandpré (Based on legend from Southport island, Maine, a baby washes up on shore to keep a little lighthouse girl company. Elegant language and illustrations as sweeping and rich as the sky over the sea make this a mysterious and moving read.) (7 and up)
There's Only One of Me by Pat Hutchins (Sister, daughter, stepdaughter, granddaughter, cousin, niece…which is it? There's no identity crisis in this cumulative story in which one girl is many things to many people. Great way to learn about family relations, a tricky subject for preschoolers!) (4 and up)
Everything is Different at Nonna's House by Caron Lee Cohen, illustrated by Hiroe Nakata (When a little boy visits his grandma on the farm, all the tasks he helps with make him feel like a big boy. Will he feel that way when when he goes back to the city? A sunny story of a boy who finds out he is growing up nomatter where he is.) (4 and up)
Baby Signs for Animals by Linda Acredolo and Susan Goodwyn, photographs by Penny Gentieu (One of a new board book series which encourages parents to foster communication by using sign language! Plus, babies always like pictures of other babies. An interesting idea, and as fun as fingerplays.) (birth and up)
The Alphabet Keeper by Mary Murphy (A villainous alphabet keeper tries to nab her runaway letters, but are outwitted by a bit of wordplay. High drama and a sense of silliness will involve emergent readers.) (5 and up)
Blue Horse by Helen Stephens (A girl uses a favorite toy and a lot of imagination to adjust after a family move. Adorable illustrations with a palette straight out of the candy store.) (4 and up)
Policeman Lou and Policewoman Sue by Lisa Desimini (Follow important community helpers through their day in this handsome book.) (5 and up)
First Year Letters by Julie Danneberg, illustrated by Judy Love (Peek in the mail of a classroom post office to follow an active classroom through their school year. Full of detail that may be painfully recognizable to some professionals, this charming book is a perfect end-of-year present for your favorite first-year teacher, or for introducing students to letter-writing skills.) (7 and up)
Substitute Teacher Plans by Doug Johnson, illustrated by Tammy Smith (A mix-up creates the best school day kids have ever had!) (7 and up)
Hunter's Best Friend at School by Laura Elliot, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger (Hunter has to decide whether he has to follow the fold in order to keep a friend.) (5 and up)
Man on the Moon: A Day in the Life of Bobby Simon Bartram (Bob has a far-out job selling souvenirs in outer space.) (5 and up)
Horace and Morris Join the Chorus, but What About Dolores? by James Howe, illustrated by Amy Walrod. (A musical triangle emerges when one friend sings off-key.) (6 and up)
Rosa Raposa by F. Isabel Campoy, illustrated by Jose Aruego and Ariane Dewey (Clever stories featuring animals from the rainforest canopy. Pair with Eric Carle's latest, "Slowly, Slowly, Slowly," Said the Sloth for a complete rainforest storytime.) (6 and up)
Comic Adventures of Boots by Satoshi Kitamura (Wild and imaginative feline vignettes in comic book form.) (6 and up)
There Was a Bold Lady Who Wanted a Star by Charise Mericle Harper (This space-age take on the traditional cumulative tale really shines, thanks to the loving relationship between a mother and her son.) (5 and up)
Little Rat Sets Sail by Monika Bang-Campbell, illustrated by Molly Bang (Shiver me timbers! A scaredy-rat finds her sea-legs in this terrific chapter book for new readers. First in a new series!) (6 and up)
Plantzilla by Jerdine Nolen, illustrated by David Catrow (Told in letters, one boy grows attached to his science project …and vice versa.) (5 and up)
Puppy Trouble by Alexandra Day (The offspring of Good Dog Carl bounds off the page in pop-up form!) (4 and up)
Alphabet Under Construction by Denise Fleming (Build an alphabet from scratch with a zealous little mouse. Explosive pulp painting illustrations!) (5 and up)
Pinocchio the Boy by Lane Smith(The king of parody strikes again, as he follows an unwitting Pinocchio through his first day as a real boy.) (4 and up)
I Stink! by Kate and Jim McMullan (Macho garbage truck goes on his rounds, collecting debris from A to Z . First person voice is very funny.) (4 and up) A Place to Grow by Soyung Pak, illustrated by Marcelino Truong (A meraphor for the immigration grows out of a conversation between father and daughter.) (6 and up) Big Al and Shrimpy by Andrew Clements, illustrated by Yoshi (The beloved big guy is back and befriending the smallest fish in the sequel, with the same wonderful waterful illustrations. Catch it!) (5 and up)
David Gets in Trouble by David Shannon (The recalcitrant rascal makes a return with all new mischief, and finally offers up a genuine "sorry!" The illustration of David messing up his class picture is worth the price of the book.) (5 and up)
Visiting Day by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by James Ransome (A girl pays a bittersweet visit to her father in the penetentiary. An unconventional book that bravely explores a wide gamut of emotions, with realistic paintings to match.) (7 and up)
Dog Food by Saxton Freymann, illustrated by Joost Elffers (Dogmatic idioms get an appetizing treatment, thanks to ingenious sculptures created from food.) (5 and up)
Another Perfect Day by Ross MacDonald (A boy dreams of life as a superheroic grown-up. Retro artwork is a blast.) (5 and up)
Oliver Finds His Way by Phyllis Root, illustrated by Christopher Denise (Beautiful autumnal story of a bear lost in the woods.) (4 and up)
Knick-Knack Paddywhack! by Paul Zelinsky. (The traditional rhyme "This Old Man" was never so animated as in this pop-up. So many surprises, you can hardly count them all, and what a grand finale!) (4 and up)
Parker Picks by Deborah A. Levine, illustrated by Pedro Martin (Parker is cured of a bad habit when his finger gets stuck in his nose. Pick this winner for the poop-joke set!) (4 and up)
Chicken Soup by Heart by Esther Hershehorn, illustrated by Roseanne Litzinger (A young mensch prepares a healing meal for a neighbor, with stories being the secret ingredient. Oy, such a darling book, and the recipe in the back is nothing to sneeze at! Pair with Don't You Feel Well, Sam? new from Amy Hest and illustrated by Anita Jeram, about a bear who doesn't want to take his medicine, for a fine flu-season storytime!) (5 and up)
Potch and Polly by William Steig, illustrated by Jon Agee (The latest from the author of Shrek! is a slapstick story of unrequited love.) (5 and up)
Alberto the Dancing Alligator by Richard Waring, illustrated by Holly Swain (The sewer system produces a sublime dance partner. Tango anyone? Just check the toilet. Be forewarned: this title ilicited screams of enjoyment from first grade listeners.) (5 and up)
Toot & Puddle: Top of the World by Holly Hobbie (Ain't no mountain high enough to keep these two porcine buddies apart, as Puddle travels the world to find his better half. An endearing tribute to friendship.) (5 and up)
Big Bad Wolf by Claire Masurel, illustrated by Melissa Iwai (Who's afraid of the big bad wolf? Look through die-cut pages to determine that his bark is worse than his bite.) (4 and up)
Uh-Oh! by Marion Dane Bauer, illustrated by Valeria Petrone (Children will delight in predicting disaster in this lift the flap book featuring rhythmic text, bold illustrations and ending with embraces from forgiving parents.) (4 and up)

Mommy Time by Élisabeth Brami, illustrated by Anne Sophie Tschiegg (imaginative romp as a boy wonders what mommy's up to while they're apart. Stylish artwork!) (4 and up)
Duck on a Bike by David Shannon (When the kids are away, the livestock does play! Extra silly read-aloud with a surprise ending.) (5 and up)
Square Triangle Round Skinny by Vladimir Radunsky (Attractive boxed set of four shape concept books. Each illustration is a ticklish treasure that might inspire your family to make your own shape books for baby's giggling pleasure! Great gift!) (birth and up)
Aunt Minnie and the Twister by Mary Skillings Prigger, illustrated by Betsy Lewin (After a tornado hits, Aunt Minnie is left with all she needs to start again.) (5 and up)
Dream Dancer by Jill Newsome, illustrated by Claudio Munoz (Glorious story about a ballerina girl who breaks her leg and lives vacriously through her ballerina doll. Illustrations reminiscent of Marc Simont flow gracefully throughout. Bravo!) (6 and up)
Big Bear Ball by Joanne Ryder, illustrated Steven Kellogg (Comes by hot-air balloon to the wild big bear ball...makes the teddy's bear picnic seem like small potatoes. Jaunty verse and beaucoup de bear hugs make this a natch for storytime.) (4 and up)
Rosy's Visitors by Judy Hindley, illustrated by Helen Craig (Rosy makes a house of her own out of an old tree trunk, and all the fairies come to play. Imaginative story speaks to the heart of a little girl, sure to be a favorite remembered well into adulthood. By the same illustrator as Angelina Ballerina. (3 and up)
Zat Cat! by Chelsea McLaren (A cat's claw-inspired fashions make a splash on a Paris runway. This book is so pretty in pink, and just look at that fold-out spread, it's fabulous, dahhling!) (5 and up)
Dog Eared by Amanda Harvey (A self-conscious pup is loved out of a slump in this dear story.) (5 and up)
Darcy and Gran Don't Like Babies by Jane Cutler, illustrated by Susannah Ryan (Off-beat story of sibling rivalry realistically resolved.) (5 and up)
Squeaky Clean by Simon Puttock (Piggies and bubble stuff...bathtime was never so much fun! Read aloud while your little ones splash in the tub.) (4 and up)
What the Animals Were Waiting For by Jonathan London, illustrated by Paul Morin (Come await the rainy season with the Maasai! Astounding oil paintings inspired by the artist's real travels across the African savannah.) (6 and up)
In the Space of the Sky by Richard Lewis (The swirling, round motifs give a cyclical feeling that compliments the text and will make every day Earth Day!) (5 and up)
The Dancing Deer and the Foolish Hunter by Elisa Kleven (A wonderful wonder tale about connections in nature!) (6 and up)
Goose's Story by Cari Best, illustrated by Holly Meade (An injured goose teaches a little girl lessons in empathy and courage. Based on a true story. Bold, striking illustrations that are great for storytime.) (6 and up)
Little Pig Figwort Can't Get to Sleep by Henrietta Branford, illustrated by Claudio Munoz (Insomniac piglet manages to tire himself out through a series of energetic fantasies. Fans of pig hits like Falconer's Olivia and Lindgren's Benny's Had Enough will appreciate the expressive artwork.) (4 and up)
Would You Rather? by John Burningham (Would you rather tickle a monkey or dance with a goat? Making imaginary choices is fun, and while I would rather there were fewer macabre choices, the children didn't seem to mind too much. Future Edward Gorey fans will enjoy. For slightly sunnier choices, try William Steig's latest, Which Would You Rather Be? ) in which a rabbit pulls several surprises out of a hat. (5 and up)
My Somebody Special by Sarah Weeks, illustrated by Ashley Wolff (Mommy's late picking up from school. Will she ever come? An affectionate and reasurring must-have for all day care centers!) (3 and up)
The Master Swordsman & The Magic Doorwayby Alice Provensen. (Set in ancient China, two superb legends about mastering a craft.) (6 and up)
Little Wing Giverby Jacques Taravant, illustrated by Peter Sis ( Bittersweet and slightly sectarian pourquoi tale that will make your heart flutter! Read with Gerald McDermott's new trickster tale from the Amazon, Jabuti, for a fine feathered storytime!) (6 and up)
Bridget and the Gray Wolves by Pija Lindenbaum (A contemporary Red-Riding Hood finds confidence when she puts a pack of grouchy canines in their place!) (4 and up)
Fast Food! Gulp! Gulp! by Bernard Waber (Slow down and enjoy this fine food fracas! Great for choral speaking!) (5 and up)
Ants in My Pants by Wendy Mould (A cast of creatures conspire with a little boy as he gets dressed for a wintry day.) (3 and up)
Chimp and Zee by Catherine and Laurence Anholt (BIG monkey mischief in a BIG picture book! You'll go bananas over the colorful illustrations!) (4 and up)
Book!by Kristine O'Connell George (Whats in the package? A boy unwraps a book, and all the fun that goes with it. Sturdy pages, a great first book!) (2 and up)
The Friday Nights of Nana by Amy Hest, illustrated by Claire A. Nivola (I wish I had these illustrations hanging in my house, they are so beautiful! Look at them to your delight in the binding!) (5 and up)
Crossing by Philip Booth (from engine to caboose, this magnificent poem is one train lovers can count on!) (4 and up)
The Adventures of Bert by Allan Ahlberg, illustrated Raymond Briggs. (Goofy little tales by two giants of British children's literature!) (6 and up)
Grump by Janet S. Wong, illustrated by John Wallace (3 and up, and great for new mothers who are overtired)
Low Song by Eve Merriam, illustrated by Papa Papadrone (3 and up)
Edna's Tale by Lisze Bechtold (4 and up)
Squarehead by Harriet Ziefert, illustrated byTodd McKie (3 and up)
One Lucky Girl by George Ella Lyon, illustrated by Irene Trivas (6 and up)
Gugu's House by Catherine Stock (5 and up)
Super-Completely and Totally the Messiest by Judith Viorst (5 and up)
The Moon Quilt by Sunny Warner (5 and up)
Ted by Tony Diterlizzi(5 and up)
The Egg by M.P. Robertson (pretty dragon book, 5 and up)
Sleepy Me by Marni McGee ( Sweet bedtime story for babies and toddlers! Birth and up)
The Raft
by Jim LaMarche (6 and up)
How Will We Get to the Beach?
by Brigitte Luciani, illustrated by Eve Tharlet
(3 and up, my 5-year old's recent favorite! )
Jump Rope Magic
by Afi Scruggs, illustrated by David Diaz (5 and up)
Do Donkeys Dance?
by Melanie Walsh (3 and up)
Me and My Cat?
by Satoshi Kitamura (5 and up)
The Tale of Gilbert Alexander Pig
by Gael Cresp, illustrated by David Cox (5 and up)
I'm Not Going to Chase the Cat Today
by Jessica Harper, illustrated by Lindsay Harper Dupont (4 and up)
The Little Red Hen : (Makes a Pizza)
by Philemon Sturges, Amy Walrod (4 and up)
Mabel Dancing
by Amy Hest, illustrated by Christine Davenier (4 and up)
Mole Music by David McPhail (5 and up)
Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco (great picture book to read aloud to older children, a true story of the author's struggle with a learning disability. Patricia Polacco is a master of picture books to read aloud to older children...for example, the Civil War story Pink and Say is a must-read! Both great for 7 and up.)
King Midas and the Golden Touch by Charlotte and K.Y. Craft (6 and up)
A Child's Calendar by John Updike (5 and up)
A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon (note: I found it hard to read aloud, but the illustrations are outstanding! 5 and up)
Marianthe's Story: Painted Words/Spoken Memories by Aliki (good story about a little girl who does not speak English, 6 and up)
Pete's a Pizza by William Steig (4 and up)
Mirror by Alexandra Day and Christina Darling (5 and up)
If You Take a Mouse to the Movies by Laura Numeroff, illustrated by Felicia Bond (same team as If You Give A Mouse a Cookie)
Dream Snow by Eric Carle, author of The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Strega Nona Takes a Vacation by Tomie dePaola (Also, the sequel to his Newbery honor book 26 Fairmount Avenue is out, We Are All Here)
Crickwing by Janell Cannon, author of Stellaluna
The Rain Came Down by David Shannon, author of No, David
Martha and Skits by Susan Meddaugh, author of Martha Speaks
All by Myself! by Aliki, author of Feelings
Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes, author of Lily's Purple Plastic Purse

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