Amy Schwartz, . . Atheneum/Jackson, $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-689-84059-3

Schwartz (Bea and Mr. Jones) sets the stage for these four simple stories of a winning preschooler right from the title page. She pictures a boy in a hooded red sweatshirt waiting with his mother at a bus stop, catty-corner from a flower shop. An alarmed look on the mother's face is wordlessly explained with a turn of the page: Daddy, who was seen picking out a flower arrangement, nearly missed the bus! Then, "They get off at a red brick house./ There are two babies inside./ The babies are the same size./ They are twins." In a voice perfectly pitched for a preschool audience, Schwartz describes the symmetry of the household ("They have/ two rocking horses,/ two jack-in-the-boxes,/ two toy clowns," etc.). She encourages audience participation by asking after each caper, "And what do you think James liked best?" Several pictures from the preceding tale suggest possibilities ("Was it the two toy clowns?"), but the author wisely indicates no one answer. Youngsters will easily identify with these familiar excursions (a visit to Grandma and Auntie, a trip to the county fair, a play date) and will happily play a role in deciding which aspect of each James likes best. Schwartz's mix of scene-setting full-page illustrations and humorous smaller vignettes will capture the attention of readers young and old. Beginning readers can sound out the text, while pre-readers can point out the items described. An engaging exploration of timeless and treasured childhood pastimes. Ages 2-5. (Apr.)