Sue Heap, . . Candlewick, $12.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-7636-2111-7

Seymour the sheep, dressed in stripes, Rachel the polka-dotted rabbit and Florentina the bear, named for the pattern of flowers in her fur, gather for storytime. But first Mary Clare, the girl who reads to them, must wake up. And then everyone must get settled just so; each has his or her own chair (which visually correlates to the characters: Seymour sits in a striped chair; Rachel in one with polka-dots). With economic, almost reportorial prose, Heap (Cowboy Baby) captures how children experience conflicting needs and attempt to get what they want. If Mary Clare moves her chair closer to Seymour's so he can see the book's pictures, Rachel can't see. If the girl scoots over to make Rachel happy, Florentina becomes upset: "I'm lonely over here," says the giant flowered bear, sitting by herself in the only chair that will accommodate her girth. Distinct solid bands of color (indicating floor and wall) create a stillness to Heap's soft-toned acrylic paintings—the plane of action never varies, and she indicates the buddies' changing expressions with just a hint of pencil line. And yet, the emotions on the page churn with a palpable intensity—when Florentina's eyebrows arch upward and she gathers her hulking arms close to her body, readers will instantly understand the depth of her isolation and despair. Luckily, it's a temporary state; this enchanting tale has a happy ending. Ages 2-up. (Aug.)