Viviane Schwarz, , illus. by Joel Stewart. . Candlewick, $14.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-7636-1674-8

Magritte, in a whimsical mood, might have done these charming paintings of a disembodied nose who seeks "a place where I can fit in, and stick out." The Nose, a pale and fleshy triangle, stands upright on two slim legs (one from each nostril) that wear tasteful gray flannel pants and brown dress shoes. Collages of maps, menus and rail tickets suggest how far the restless Nose roves in search of his ideal spot; in delicate pencil sketches and squarish color illustrations, the Nose poses in green landscapes and on street corners. This tale from a first-time author-illustrator team gets the tone just right. Schwarz's understated text conveys alienation; the Nose yearns for a sense of belonging. Meanwhile, Stewart's ingenious portraits show that everywhere the Nose goes, he unwittingly creates the illusion of a face. While enjoying a good book at the library (" 'This one smells of ink, and this one smells of dust,' he thinks"), the Nose sits between reading lamps that resemble green-lidded eyes; the open pages on his lap suggest a white mustache, à la Arcimboldo. When the Nose performs a "beautiful sneezing dance," symmetrical theater curtains recall a red mask; when he wanders through a market, two orange squash simulate eyes and a broad red sombrero indicates lips. In the end, the Nose reclines on a daybed (the bulging headrest forms a melancholy brow ridge) and a therapist reassures him, "Don't you see? The whole world fits perfectly around you... because you are a Nose!" Thanks to the surreal, captivating images, the diagnosis is as plain as, well, you know. Ages 6-up. (Apr.)