Allan Ahlberg, , illus. by Fritz Wegner. . Dial, $10.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-3012-0

Radiating timeless charm, this hand-size book by the creators of The Giant Baby ushers children into a "topsy-turvy time in the middle of a long hot winter" as a man and a woman who want a baby visit the Baby Shop ("which was how it was done in those days"). Wegner's winsome, minutely detailed black-and-white and halftone illustrations reinforce the sense of a bygone era. At the baby shop, Nurse Doodle shows the would-be parents various young ones; the artist portrays them in comical spot illustrations: a wailing crybaby, a robot baby "all in pieces in a box" and—guaranteed to make children chuckle—a "flowerpot-throwing baby" (determinedly smashing potted plants). The stately couple, wearing elegant, old-world garb, chooses an understandably irresistible cat baby, a whimsical blend of feline and human, dressed in a frilly frock. She sits in a chair at the table while lapping milk from a saucer; and exits and enters the house via a newly installed cat flap in the door. Through this flap the curious cat baby crawls one night, embarking on a rather scary (to her) adventure that lands her safely back at the home of Nurse Doodle, who, leading a jolly parade, returns the furry babe to her parents. Ahlberg sprinkles his tale with childhood delights (fireworks, a pet show–style "baby show" and Christmas Eve), all endearingly imagined in Wegner's charming pseudo-Victorian world, which makes merry mayhem of humdrum order. Readers will be drawn in effortlessly. Ages 4-up. (May)