Nancy Tafuri, . . Scholastic, $15.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-439-27311-4

Tafuri's (I Love You, Little One) skilled watercolor-and-pastel drawings feature a trio of toddler bears who run off from their mother to explore the wide world. At each turn of the page, the brief text directs readers' attention to the innocent wonders the cubs discover: "What's under here?"—three green lizards hiding under a rock. "What's down there?"—a gray mouse family peering up from a hollow log. Unfortunately, the preschool lesson on prepositions grows needlessly complicated at the climax of the story. "What's up there?" the text asks as the bears stand at the base of a tree. To find the answer, young readers must turn the book sideways and right-side-up several times. Finally, when the owl at the top of the tree startles the inquisitive cubs, they shout for their "Mama!," who provides a gently reassuring, four-bear hug. Tafuri's illustrations are cheery—even the fish being eaten by one of the cubs seems to be smiling—and the statue-like owl seems to puzzle the bears more than frighten them. Like real-life toddlers, the cubs exult in their independence, but careful readers will notice Mama Bear watching over them the whole time. Ages 1-6. (Apr.)