Cari Meister, , illus. by Steven Björkman. . Holiday, $14.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8234-1692-9

This appealing beginning reader introduces two best pals, Fats the pig and Skinny the rabbit, as well suited to each other as Meister's (When Tiny Was Tiny) buoyant narrative and Björkman's (Aliens for Breakfast; Aliens for Lunch) affectionate pictures (a highlight of which is Skinny's Hawaiian shirt sporting a carrot motif). Three chapters offer stand-alone tales. In the first, Fats tells Skinny that he is his best friend, and clever Skinny responds with clues as to the identity of his best friend. Björkman's playful black line and watercolor wash ensures that Skinny's clues never seem coy or mean-spirited (despite clue #3, "My best friend is very, very fat"). In the other capers, the duo uses a chair, a spring and an alarm clock to build a rocket that they hope will take them to Mars, and Skinny kindly consoles Fats when their contraption catapults them no farther than a backyard tree. Skinny concocts an unorthodox, rabbit-rousing marshmallow pie (calling for carrot cookies and carrot sauce) in the final episode; a recipe for a far more kid-pleasing recipe (containing graham crackers, chocolate sauce and marshmallows) closes the volume. Short, staccato sentences featuring well-placed repetition (Fats repeatedly taps his head—"Tap, tap, tap"—while thinking) make this a sprightly and appetizing morsel for picture-book graduates eager for longer fare. The characters' humorously exaggerated facial expressions alone will have budding readers laughing along with the good- humored pals. Ages 5-8. (Sept.)