Janet Lawler, , illus. by Alison Jay. . Dial, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-2617-8

Newcomer Lawler's charming verse expresses a mother's love for her baby, comparing kisses to raindrops, pebbles, glowing comets and other wonders of nature. "If kisses were flowers, you'd have huge bouquets/ of roses and daisies/ picked fresh every day." The easy rhythm of the simple metaphors nicely plays off the sophisticated quality of Jay's (Picture This...) soft oil paintings, finished in a crackling varnish that lends the illustrations a vintage porcelain feel. The opening spread sets the playful tone, as trees bend to fit an oval painting of a mother clad in 1950s full skirt and heels, towering above an oversize baby buggy. A cast of fanciful animal characters (from an elephant in an old-fashioned bathing suit to a dancing penguin and pig) then take over to demonstrate other warmhearted analogies. For the titular phrase, they cavort under a pastel rainbow; they sled down snow-covered hills for "If kisses were snowflakes, your world would be light,/ sparkling with crystals of silver and white." Jay continues to vary the spreads throughout: for "If kisses were blankets," she wraps a circular inset painting in quilting stitches. Author and artist parade the metaphors in the final full-bleed spreads, as the characters travel the rainbow to a closing heart-shaped portrait of mother and child. This affectionate volume will induce a contented feeling as surely as it will inspire loving kisses. All ages. (Mar.)