Anne Fine, , illus. by Penny Dale. . Candlewick, $15.99 (110pp) ISBN 978-0-7636-1862-9

Fine (Up on Cloud Nine) has neatly crafted a half-dozen tales for budding independent readers starring a resourceful preschooler and his stuffed Highland bull. The first story demonstrates Jamie's patience and imagination: he spies the bull, whom he names Angus, in a store window and begs his mother to buy him for Christmas. She does, but that means waiting all fall for the holiday to arrive. In the meantime, he constructs for Angus a field of green and brown sewing scraps, and gates made of popsicle sticks, and the two unite on Christmas morning. Because the "dry-clean only" tag behind Angus's neck is "horrid and tickly," Jamie cuts it off and, after Angus encounters dust, mud and glue, Granny accidentally throws him into the washing machine, resulting in his silky white coat turning into a "shaggy gray tangle." Granny buys him a new bull, but Dale's (Ten in the Bed) drawings aptly convey the boy's allegiance to his scruffy old pal. Telling details in the text describe their mutual feelings (when Angus is in the washing machine for follow-up laundering, "He stares hopefully out of the little glass window, while Jamie fixes the stall with tape and repaints the hedges"). In subsequent stories, Jamie and Angus enjoy an entertaining bedtime with Uncle Edward, listen to Daddy's story of how Jamie grew out of his stroller, and spend a day during which Jamie tries to act like a grownup and concludes that it's far more fun being a kid. The breezy, often humorous repartée between the lad and the adults in his life, plus the authentic interplay of boy and toy, keep the narrative moving at a sprightly clip. Ages 4-6. (Aug.)