cover image All by Myself

All by Myself

Ivan Bates. HarperCollins, $14.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-06-028585-2

This reassuring tale with sun-dappled watercolors of the African plains will strike a chord of recognition in preschoolers and those who love them. Maya the elephant and her mother eat leaves for breakfast every morning: ""Maya's mother would reach her long trunk high into the branches of a tree and pick the juiciest leaves for them to eat together."" Then one day, Maya insists on getting the leaves herself. She makes three valiant attempts including charging the tree in hopes of knocking the leaves loose, but all she gets is a headache. Her jungle neighbors offer their help, but Maya is intent on going solo. At last her mother hits on a way to help her daughter help herself ""to the very best breakfast she'd ever had."" Making his debut as a writer, Bates (Just You and Me) displays the same economy in his text as governs his crisp watercolor-and-ink drawings. A generous use of white space keeps the focus on the winning little elephant, and the dazzling sunlight begins to cast shadows by book's end, attesting to the patience of both parent and child. Youngsters making their first forays into independence will find this a satisfying parable. Ages 3-7. (Feb.)