cover image Connie Came to Play

Connie Came to Play

Jill Paton Walsh, Stephen Lambert. Viking Children's Books, $12.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-670-86210-8

Adult abstraction and preschooler literalism duke it out in this cute but muddled picture book. When Robert refuses to share his toy train with Connie, she says, ``All right... You play with that one. I'll play with this one... '' The next page shows Connie riding in a real train, presumably in her imagination. Five times this pattern repeats-Robert's possessiveness and Connie's retreat into fantasy-until Robert softens, presumably while hearing Connie tell a story. Lambert's (Fly by Night) bright paintings have an intriguing roughness akin to cut paper, and his characters are huggable and squat. But even his talent cannot compensate for the frustration that lies ahead for preschoolers loftily told to ``play in their heads'' while in daily life they struggle with the nuts and bolts of how to share tangible goods-among the hardest lessons they learn. Ages 2-6. (Feb.)