Love Notes

Infused with heartfelt themes, board books and novelty titles galore emerge just in time for Valentine's Day. Hot on the trail of little Bobo's love-seeking jungle jaunt, author/ illustrator Jez Alborough's witty marker pen illustrations supplement spare text in Hug. After witnessing many other animals' embraces, he finds a hug of his own. (Candlewick, $6.99 32p ages 18mos-3yrs. ISBN 0-7363-1576-5; Jan.)

A Book of Hugs by Dave Ross, illus. by Laura Rader, the first of a pair of board books, catalogues all manner of embraces, from "Puppy Hugs," which are "very soft and wet" to "Sister Hugs," which are "also known as a Single Arm Hug... [and] are good for when you walk together (even if you aren't sisters)." A Book of Kisses similarly enumerates the array of busses to be had. (HarperCollins, $6.95 each 16p all ages ISBN 0-06-000273-5; -000274-3; Dec.)

Sarah Wilson's board book, Love and Kisses, charts the travels of love unleashed: "Blow a kiss and let it go/ You never know/ how love will grow!" Melissa Sweet's watercolor and cut-paper collage hearts wend their way through the pages, sending the smooch from cat to cow to "giggling goose" and, eventually, back to "you-know-who." (Candlewick, $6.99 22p 18mos-3yrs. ISBN 0-7636-1049-6; Nov.)

Set to the words of the classic song, Let Me Call You Sweetheart, Amanda Haley's lighthearted watercolors tell the story of a preschooler serenading "Sweetheart," her Valentine's Day pup. Youngsters can hear the tune by pressing the sound chip on this Sing-Along Storybook. (HarperFestival, $6.95 10p ages 6mos-3yrs ISBN 0-694-01556-3; Dec.)

A couple of Valentine reissues appear in time to say, "Be mine." Patti Stren's Hug Me (1977)—the story of Elliot Kravitz, a love-starved porcupine in search of an embrace—returns with fresh comic illustrations. Dialogue bubbles add humorous detail to Stren's uplifting tale of a fellow who finally finds someone to hug. (HarperCollins, $14.95 32p all ages ISBN 0-06-029317-9; Dec.)

Originally published in 1983 as Four Valentines in a Rainstorm, Felicia Bond's The Day It Rained Hearts follows young Cornelia Augusta as she makes creative use of a most unusual downpour. Along with the name change, Bond's offering has also been enlarged, adding a generous white frame around sweet and simple vignettes of Cornelia fashioning a quartet of handcrafted Valentine's Day cards; includes a heart-themed sticker sheet. (HarperCollins, $9.95 32p ages 4-8 ISBN 0-06-623876-5; Dec.)

Preschoolers anticipate the big day in Hugs and Hearts by Toni Trent Parker, with photos by Earl Anderson. "My friends are coming over/ for a valentine treat," says a grinning girl. "We'll have lots of goodies/ and, of course, they'll all be sweet." The photographs capture the happy faces of African-American children with cookies, cards and other heart-themed paraphernalia. (Scholastic/Cartwheel, $6.95 16p ages 6mos-4yrs ISBN 0-439-33870-0; Feb.)

A baby bear surveys smooching styles in What Kind of Kiss? by Alyssa Satin Capucilli, illus. by Hiroe Nakata: "What kind of kiss do you like, Mama?/ What kind of kiss do you like?" says the cub. "A good-morning kiss," seems to be the mother's simple reply, until the double fold-out page reveals, in addition, "a rise-and-shine kiss,/ a kiss-to-start-the-day kiss." The format repeats throughout until mother and father bear turn the tables. Nakata's tender illustrations make clever use of the expanding horizontal space. (HarperFestival, $6.95 paper 12p ages 2-6 ISBN 0-694-01573-3; Dec.)

Capucilli's popular pup returns in Biscuit Loves You Valentine's Day Kit, illus. by Pat Schories. Stickers, cards and a storybook that's shaped like a heart when opened make this a sweet treat. (HarperFestival, $7.95 paper 16p ages 3-6 ISBN 0-694-01643-8; Dec.)

"Some of the animals at the zoo are making something special for you," in the pop-up Valentine's Day at the Zoo by Nadine Bernard Westcott. Airy watercolors enliven precise line drawings of creative creatures, including crayon-wielding monkeys and a polar bear with paper doilies. (S&S/Little Simon, $5.99 paper 16p ages 3-6 ISBN 0-689-84567-7; Jan.)

Greta and her neighbor Harris attempt to out-trick each other in Be My Valenslime by J.K. Arden, illus. by Joy Allen. The battle begins when Greta "valenslime[s]" Harris by concealing a clutch of creepy critters in a candy box. Throughout the day, the two take turns sliming each other, announcing each prank with a "Valenslime's Day" card that readers can pull out of actual envelopes. But after school, they both decide to redeem the day. (Dutton, $6.99 paper 24p ages 6-10 ISBN 0-525-46468-9; Jan.)

Based on the new TV special of the same name, A Charlie Brown Valentine, by Charles M. Schulz, adapted by Justine and Ron Fontes and illus. by Paige Braddock, follows the anxiety-ridden hero as he loses sleep in his attempts to show the Little Red-Haired Girl that he cares. (S&S/Little Simon, $5.99 paper 32p ages 4-8 ISBN 0-689-84821-8; Jan.)

Two more TV stars celebrate the big day in a pair of board books. Guess Who Loves Blue!—all of Blue's buddies do (from the Baby Blue's Clues TV show, that is). In Bear's Valentine's Day, starring the Bear in the Big Blue House, the hero's pals construct a greeting card (in a House that Jack Built cumulative narrative), which pulls out of the last page. (S&S/Simon Spotlight, $4.99 each ages 3-6 ISBN 0-689-84870-6; -84307-0; Jan.)

Well Versed

Poet Bobbi Katz gets into a groove in A Rumpus of Rhymes: A Book of Noisy Poems. In this collection of 28 original works, Katz's words burst from the page in an onomatopoeic flourish. "Caught in the Act" explains the punishment for stealing potato chips: "And now I'm grounded! What a pain—/ betrayed by crinkling cellophane!" In "Spring Conversations:" " 'Whisk!'/ whirls the jump rope,/ twirling/ around./ 'THUD!'/ say the sneakers,/ bouncing off the ground."' Each "noisy" word gets special typeface—thin, heavy, looping and brisk—to suit the sound. Susan Estalle Kwas's neon-bright illustrations with a bold black outline add thunder. (Dutton, $15.99 32p ages 7-10 ISBN 0-525-46718-1; Oct.)

Set in Pennsylvania's Lancaster County, A Humble Life: Plain Poems by Linda Oatman High chronicles the simple life of the area's Mennonite and Amish people in works like "Brand New Lamb" and "Barn Raising Day" ("Baking pies/ for barn raising day, we pray/ that no lightning strikes/ again."). Bill Farnsworth's exquisite oil-on-linen illustrations bring the setting to life. (Eerdmans, $17 40p ages 5-up ISBN 0-8028-5207-6; Sept.)

Poetry by Heart: A Child's Book of Poems to Remember, edited by Liz Attenborough, encourages kids to find a poem for keeps. This lively collection includes a range of work from Roald Dahl, Emily Dickinson, Charlotte Zolotow and William Shakespeare, among others. A different artist illustrates each section, organized by themes such as "Short and Sharp," "Uplifting and Brave" and "Long and Lingering." Britain's former poet laureate Andrew Motion provides the foreword. (Scholastic/Chicken House, $17.95 128p all ages ISBN 0-439-29657-9; Sept.)

Conceived as a kind of literary field trip to Carl Sandburg's North Carolina farm, From Daybreak to Good Night: Poems for Children, edited by Lynn Smith-Ary, places 11 of the poet's works in a pastoral setting. Smith-Ary's artwork portrays the young, multiethnic guests running up the lane to meet their host, enjoying a breakfast of fried eggs and cavorting near the pond as Sandburg lays beneath a tree reading a favorite Emily Dickinson poem. (Annick [Firefly, dist.], $7.95 paper 24p ages 5-8 ISBN 1-55037-680-2; Nov.)

Rhythmic rhyme and clever paper engineering make Mike Brownlow's The Big White Book with Almost Nothing in It a colorful addition to the bookshelf. Heavy black text stands out against thick white pages: "This book's got NOTHING in it!'/ Or does it?" Lift the flap to reveal a bright blue-and-red elf ("Hello!") and his dancing dog ("Woof!"). Die-cut pages, turning wheels and creative graphics make this pop-up stand out. (Ragged Bears [Chronicle, dist.], $13.95 20p ages 4-8 ISBN 1-929927-24-X; Sept.)

For the Nursery Set

Gathering four timeless tales with pictures by Caldecott Honor artist Paul Galdone into one handsomely designed volume, Nursery Classics: A Galdone Treasury shows off the illustrator's wit, whimsy and masterful use of detail. In "The Three Little Pigs," the precocious porkers turn the tables on the leering wolf; the opening pages of "The Three Bears" show the main characters smiling knowingly at the reader, while the "Little Wee Bear" holds his teddy close. An introduction by Leonard S. Marcus offers a glimpse into Galdone's personal history and artistic style. (Clarion, $22 176p ages 4-8 ISBN 0-618-13046-2; Nov.)

Diz Wallis selects and illustrates a keepsake collection of 100 classics for the youngest audience, Ragged Bear's Nursery Rhymes. Along with "Little Miss Muffett," "Rub-a-Dub-Dub" and "Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary" there are also lesser known rhymes such as "Remember, Remember, the 5th of November" in honor of England's Guy Fawkes Day. Wallis's watercolors provide bright accompaniment. An afterword provides an interesting history of nursery rhymes. (Ragged Bears [Chronicle, dist.], $19.95 116p ages 2-6 ISBN 1-929927-36-3; Nov.)

The Big Baby Bear Book by John Prater offers a comforting amalgam of nursery rhymes, poems and traditional songs. Five sections, organized by familiar themes ("Out and About" features "Row, Row, Row Your Boat"; "Bedtime" includes "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star"), display Prater's popular Baby Bear character in each spaciously designed spread. (Barron's, $16.95 96p ages 6mos-4 yrs ISBN 0-7641-5344-7; Oct.)