Cari Best, , illus. by Giselle Potter. . FSG/Kroupa, $16 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-374-36882-1

Potter's piquant watercolors put the crowning touch on this humorous tale of a shy child who saves her school play from disaster. The aptly named Violet hates to be the center of attention. It makes her "itch and scratch and twirl her hair" and wish she could shrink away. Though she has other talents—she's observant and a great mimic—she opts out of the school flag parade and avoids making waves in the swimming pool or "swallowing sounds at snack time." She especially dislikes it when Irwin draws attention to her, announcing that she has fat knees and smells like "deadly sewer gas." But during the class play about the solar system (for which her teacher assigns her the offstage part of the narrator, Lady Space), Violet chooses the high road: when Irwin forgets his lines, she mimics his voice and saves the day. In another romp from the creators of Three Cheers for Catherine the Great!, Best zeroes in on a familiar childhood emotion with insight and flair. Potter's whimsical characters, with their toothpick legs, tiny feet and expressive faces, cavort across the pages in a flurry of muted colors (don't miss Violet's impersonation of the Statue of Liberty). Ages 4-8. (Aug.)