Tony Johnston, MY BEST FRIEND BEARTony Johns. , $15.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-87358-775-4

Johnston's (It's About Dogs) ode to a much-loved teddy in desperate need of repair essentially divides into two distinct parts. "What a fine monkey," the grocer tells the young heroine when she brings her favorite toy shopping, not exactly the praise she's expecting. "Bear is so sad, he could cry. But his eyes are gone." So, unfortunately, is much of the rest of him ("I have told him so many secrets, his ears are gone. He has laughed at so many jokes, his mouth is gone," notes his owner). Mother adds that when bears start looking like monkeys, "It's high time to fix them." At this juncture, the story abruptly pivots from the girl's relationship to her toy to address readers directly with a step-by-step repair process ("Then what do you do?"). Johnston chronicles the makeover from stitching to shampooing to line-drying ("You stay while he dries/ and eat a sandwich and/ shoo the birds away—/ in case he looks like stuff/ for a nest"). Allen's (Mud Pie Annie) watercolor and colored pencil illustrations, with their soft shading and slightly smudged outlines, aid in connecting the two sections of the book and exude warmth. Ages 3-5. (Mar.)