All Aboard!

The Very Busy Life of Olaf and Venus series highlights the adventures of Olaf, a big blue elephant, and Venus, a tiny mouse, in four board books by Pierre Pratt. In Home, domestic scenes offer opportunities for simple vocabulary. On one spread, a clearly labeled empty "bathtub" stands alone against a white background; the opposite page bursts with color as the pair throws a large beach ball back and forth, water splashing everywhere. Car shows the two friends driving a red convertible to the "sea," past a "porcupine." They buy fruit, flowers and shoes in Shopping. And in Park, Venus rides on the back of a dog and a toddler named Sam says, "hello." The illustrations convey warmth as they offer a familiar context for the words. (Candlewick, $4.99 each 12p ages 2-up ISBN 0-7636-1389-4; -1390-8; -1392-4; -1391-6; May)

Two board books by Ed Vere encourage children to lift the main characters (attached with a ribbon) off the covers. In Everyone's Little, a baby elephant enters the story to demonstrate how it differs in size from kittens, piglets and more. In Everyone's Noisy, a lion meets a crocodile that says, "Snap," a parrot that says, "Squawk!" and in the end, another lion that answers back, "ROAR!" (Scholastic/Orchard, $6.95 each 12p ages 1-4 ISBN 0-531-30336-5; -30335-7; May)

Youngsters can celebrate differences, read Spanish and learn opposites in America: A Book of Opposites/un libro de contrarios by W. Nikola-Lisa, with 10 different illustrators. Each double-page spread, representing a different "land" in the United States, illustrates a pair of opposites in both English and Spanish. For example, a boy makes a path of footprints on a beach in Hawaii between the words, "Hot land/ Tierra cálida." On the opposite page, a girl builds a snowman in Alaska between the words, "Cold land/ Tierra fría." (Lee & Low, $6.95 24p ages 2-5 ISBN 1-58430-028-0; May)

Finally, Denise Fleming fans will be crowing now that Barnyard Banter is in a board book edition. With "Cows in the pasture,/ moo, moo, moo" and Roosters in the barnyard,/ cock-a-doodle-doo," young children will happily follow Goose, chasing a butterfly around a lush and colorful farm. (Holt, $6.95 28p ages 1-4 ISBN 0-8050-6594-6; May)

Looks Are Deceiving

"Ruby and Rose were twins. They looked alike, but in their hearts they were as different as night and day." Beth Norling retells the Brothers Grimm's fairy tale "Mother Holle" as Sister Night and Sister Day. Her earth-toned colored pencil drawings contrast the two girls and their fates, as they each meet Mother Earth and learn that what is done in her house "will also be done upon the earth!" (Allen & Unwin [IPG, dist.], $14.95 32p ages 4-10 ISBN 1-86448-863-8; May)

For Your Information

Jim Arnosky enthusiasts will welcome Raccoon on His Own, about a baby raccoon separated from his family. The fellow climbs aboard a canoe and Arnosky's illustration conveys the raccoon's fright as he floats past a "great big alligator." Five warblers call "Zweet, zweet, zweet," bringing him comfort until his family meets him on another mud bank. (Putnam, $15.99 32p ages 2-6 ISBN 0-399-22756-3; May)

"Cougars howl.../ Panthers prowl.../ Camels loop.../ Mosquitos swoop..." not in nature, but in Air Show by Anastasia Suen, illus. by Cecco Mariniello. The "cougar" is a Grumman F9F Cougar (1951) and the "camel" is a Sopwith Camel (1916). Next to each historic airplane in flight, a clear diagram appears with a top, side and front view. Sure to please airplane fans, the volume includes "Air Show Stats" and "Famous Firsts in Flight." (Holt, $15.95 32p ages 4-7 ISBN 0-8050-4952-5; May)

Children who collect baseball cards will appreciate the 14 stars featured in ¡Béisbol! Latino Baseball Pioneers and Legends by Jonah Winter. Striking full-page portraits accompany biographical information on standouts such as José Méndez, the "first Latino baseball legend ever," known as "El Diamante Negro" (the Black Diamond) and Roberto Clemente, "The Pride of Puerto Rico," who died in a plane crash helping to aid Nicaraguan earthquake victims.(Lee & Low, $16.95 32p ages 6-up ISBN 1-58430-012-4; May)

Four books are now available in paperback as part of the Read and Wonder series. In All Pigs Are Beautiful by Dick King-Smith, illus. by Anita Jeram, the author of Babe the Gallant Pig imparts firsthand knowledge of his own porcine pals. Big Blue Whale by Nicola Davies, illus. by Nick Maland, takes a look at the physical characteristics, habits and habitat of "the biggest creature that has ever lived on Earth!" The features and life cycle of the eel are presented in Think of an Eel by Karen Wallace, illus. by Mike Bostock, and Martin Jenkins explores the ever-changing reptiles in Chameleons Are Cool, illus. by Sue Shields. (Candlewick, $5.99 paper each 32p ages 3-up Pigs ISBN 0-7636-1433-5; Whale -1080-1; Eel -1522-6; Chameleons -1139-5; May)