Valeri Gorbachev, . . North-South/ Cheshire Studio, $15.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-7358-1541-4

This sure-fire toddler pleaser finds Mother Hen taking her two little chicks on their debut outing to the playground. Brave the duo is not—in fact, they're downright, well, chicken. "No, thank you," the chicks reply when a pair of dogs ask them if they'd like a turn on the seesaw. "We're just little chickens." Ditto to the pigs on the seesaw ("We might get dizzy"), the cats on the swings ("we might fall off") and the frogs and mice on the slide ("it's much too scary"). Finally tempted to the top of the slide, they freeze in fear. "Don't be such chicken chickens!" shout their would-be playmates, until a friendly beaver climbs up to help them. Gorbachev (Goldilocks and the Three Bears) takes a familiar preschool scenario and spins it out with gusto, making hay with the clever "chicken" theme and fashioning a reassuring tale of overcoming fear. His watercolor-and-pen illustrations, with their quiet palette and busy cross-hatching, convey a bustling playground populated by a winsome flock of critters. Just the ticket for any little chicken whose courage could use a boost. Ages 3-5. (Sept.)