Phyllis Root, , illus. by Christopher Denise. . Candlewick, $14.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-7636-1383-9

Root (What Baby Wants) uses a minimum of text and Denise (The Fool of the World) alternates close-up portraits with panoramic view to bring a fresh poignancy to the familiar theme of a child so caught up in play that he suddenly finds himself lost and alone. On a gorgeous autumn day, while Mama and Papa tend to chores, Oliver the bear cub follows the airborne path of a big yellow leaf. In nearly cinematic views framed in a clean white border, the artist shows the cub getting farther from home. Before he knows it, Oliver is at the edge of the woods. With economic, staccato-rhythm prose ("Oliver looks for the leaf./ No leaf./ Oliver looks for the house./ No house"), Root evokes the flashes of realization that constitute a child's thought process. Denise's gold-toned charcoal and pastel pictures never distort the landscape into something frightening. The woods where Oliver finds himself may be shadowy, but glimpses of comforting blue sky show through the trees, and a squirrel and bunny who watch Oliver are far from threatening. Denise gets terrific emotional mileage from the interplay of Oliver's tiny eyes, huge head and clown-like snout; readers will have no trouble empathizing with his plight. And when Oliver figures out that he can find his way back through call-and-response roars with his parents, youngsters will cheer his noisy ingenuity, too. Ages 3-6. (Sept.)