Holiday Offerings

A quintet of holiday books contemplates valentines and Easter baskets. Based on Nick Jr.'s popular TV series Bob the Builder, the board book Bob's Valentine Surprise by Kim Ostrow, illus. by Joe and Terri Chicko, follows the 3-D construction worker and his team as they try to build a road on February 14. But presents (hidden behind 18 liftable flaps) keep turning up along the way. (S&S/Simon Spotlight, $5.99 14p ages 2-6 ISBN 0-689-84633-9; Jan.)

"Tea for two?/ I decline./ I don't want a valentine." In Who Wants a Valentine? by Linda Lowery and Richard Keep, a resolute boy turns bashful when a cute girl comes on the scene. Humorous cut paper collage depicts a diverse cast of characters. (Random/Pictureback, $3.25 paper 24p ages 2-4 ISBN 0-375-81438-8; Jan.)

Suzy Spafford leads readers—and the cast of her Little Suzy's Zoo series—on a hunt for bonnets, baskets, chocolate bunnies and more in Witzy's Backyard Easter Hunt. The board book's tabbed pages show youngsters the item(s) in question. (Scholastic/Cartwheel, $5.99 18p ages 2-4 ISBN 0-439-36778-6; Feb.)

Sister Bear thinks holidays are all about candy and presents, but when Easter rolls around, Mama makes a point of teaching its message of rebirth and life in The Berenstain Bears and the Real Easter Eggs by Stan and Jan Berenstain. (Random, $3.25 paper 32p ages 5-8 ISBN 0-375-81133-8; Jan.)

Plagued with problems, the Peanuts gang almost gives up on the celebration; that is until Snoopy—aka the "Easter Beagle"— brightens the hapless holiday in It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown by Charles M. Schulz, adapted by Justine and Ron Fontes, illus. by Paige Braddock. (S&S/Little Simon, $5.99 paper 32p ages 4-8 ISBN 0-689-84822-6; Jan.)

Princess Power

A royal rube seeks training from her princess pals in Jan Lewis's The Secret Princess Handbook: Or How to Be a Princess. Along the way, Ruby (and the lucky reader) picks up finery for the masked ball (e.g., pink glitter hair clips come tucked inside a basket at Princess Rapunzel's tower). Pop-ups add magic. (S&S/Little Simon, $14.95 14p ages 3-8 ISBN 0-689-84373-9; Oct.)

Girls go from pedestrian to pedigreed in The Four Princesses by Tiny Fisscher, illus. by Barbara de Wolf. Instructions show how to make jewelry from cotton balls and plastic bottles, and fancy frocks from hand-me-down dress shirts so kids can act out the roles of the titular quartet. (Kane/Miller, $18.95 64p ages 4-8 ISBN 1-929132-19-0; Oct.)

Also encouraging girls to dress up and act out their fantasies is Kristen Hall's I'm a Fairy Princess! Storybook and Wings kit, illus. by Arlene Kennedy, featuring a five-year-old princess and her misadventures with a magic wand. Brief descriptions of "Fairy Friends from Around the World" and instructions for making a "fairy princess wand" complete the storybook. Pink and purple wire-framed fairy wings are packaged in the cover. I'm a Ballerina! from the same duo, follows a similar format, but comes with a pink tutu. (Scholastic/Cartwheel, $14.95 24p ages 3-up ISBN 0-439-27903-8; -27904-6; -Nov.)

The magic of royalty and ballet combine against an Edgar Degas backdrop for Anna Pavlova's I Dreamed I Was a Ballerina. Using simple language, the Russian dancer vividly describes the pleasure, awe and inspiration drawn from Sleeping Beauty, her first glimpse of the ballet. (Atheneum/Metropolitan Museum of Art, $16 32p all ages ISBN 0-689-84676-2; Oct.)

Holding true to what the cover promises, The Fairy Tale Catalog: Everything You Need to Make a Fairy Tale by Sally Gardner offers a selection of "good" and "bad fairies," "tooth fairies" and half price "clearance fairies." Also for sale, fairy accessories, food and furniture. There are no prices; "all you have to do is wish" says the opening note. Miniature pen-and-ink drawings appear against paper and fabric collage backgrounds. (Chronicle, $15.95 40p ages 4-8 ISBN 0-8118-3220-8; Oct.)

Hugh Brewster and Laurie Coulter tell true stories of 12 famous females in To Be a Princess: The Fascinating Lives of Real Princesses. Among them: Queen Victoria, who ascended the throne at age 13, and Hawaii's Princess Ka 'iulani, whose mother—on her death bed—declared that Ka 'iulani would never be queen. Laurie McGaw's regal oil portraits open each section. Period prints and photographs, timelines, a glossary, index and selected bibliography round out the volume. (HarperCollins, $17.95 64p ages 8-14 ISBN 0-06-029480-9; Oct.)

The Real Raggedy Ann

Johnny Gruelle found an ordinary rag doll in his parents' attic that sparked his creative juices, later becoming the inspiration for many stories to cheer his ailing daughter. In Raggedy Ann & Andy: A Retrospective Celebrating 85 Years of Storybook Friends by Patricia Hall, photographs, full-color illustrations and artifacts—such as the tiny cardboard heart sewn inside the earliest dolls—chronicle the evolution of Gruelle's enduring characters. A foreword by granddaughter Joni Gruelle Wannamaker opens the volume. (S&S, $17 40p all ages ISBN 0-689-84336-4; Oct.)

Faithfully re-created with Gruelle's full-color illustrations, restored endpapers and reset text, the 1924 adventure Raggedy Ann and Andy and the Camel with the Wrinkled Knees will likely win over a new generation and warm the hearts of dedicated fans. (S&S, $17 96p ages 5-up ISBN 0-689-84699-1; Oct.)

It's Josh, B'Gosh

The OshKosh B'Gosh overall-clad mascot, Josh B'Gosh, stars in two board book adventures by Katie Morse, illus. by Keiko Motoyama, Josh Takes a Trip and Josh Gets Ready for School. Each spread of this "Book to Touch and Feel" includes a different textured cloth. In the first, for instance, the teddy bear's suitcase holds a black-and-white shirt; on the airplane, flaps of blue cloth divide the cockpit from the cabin. The titular 3-D teddy appears as a crisp photographic image against Motoyama's full-bleed illustrations. (S&S/Little Simon, $7.99 each 14p ages 2-5 ISBN 0-689-84375-5; -84374-7; Nov.)

A game of hide-and-seek provides the plot for the lift-the-flap book, Who's Hiding, Josh? by Nancy Krulik, illus. by Jason Wolff. And a denim cloth book fastened with overall straps teaches kids how to zip, snap and more in How to Get Dressed. (S&S/Little Simon, $8.99 16p -84058-6; Get Dressed $17.95 8p ages 1-3 -84348-8; Nov.)

Early Learning

Faith Ringgold returns to Tar Beach for Cassie's Word Quilt as the heroine takes readers on a tour of her home, neighborhood and school. Beginning with an upper and lower case alphabet on the endpapers, the volume introduces each theme in an illustration bordered by Ringgold's signature quilting, then specific vignettes follow on the opposite page. For instance, "Cassie's bedroom has many colorful clothes" appears above a grid of nine items (bed, dresser, doll, etc.) in a 3x3 formation. (Knopf, $13.95 32p ages 6mos-4yrs ISBN 0-375-81200-8; Jan.)

Vivid colors, bold design and crisp photography combine in Christiane Gunzi's My Very First Look at Numbers, photographed by Steve Gorton. Focusing on numbers 1-10, then up to 50 in increments of 10. The opening spread shows a photograph of "one teddy bear" set against a hot pink background with the numeral "1" in yellow. Below, black print on a deep blue band asks, "What color is teddy's ribbon?" In a final spread of 100 beads, the text asks youngsters to find the yellow beads and striped beads. Simultaneously published in hardcover and soft, other titles in My Very First Look At series include: Colors, Sizes and Shapes. (Two-Can, $8.95 each 24p ages 2-5 ISBN 1-58728-237-2; -236-4; -239-9; -238-0; paper $5.95 each-277-1; -276-3; -279-8; -278-X; Dec.)

My First Number Lift-the-Flap Board Book features vivid photographs against a bright white background. The first spread looks at the numbers 1-5. Each photo features flaps that transform the picture. Flaps on spreads featuring the concepts of "adding" and "taking away" reveal the equations used to reach the solution. (DK, $9.95 10p ages 1-4 ISBN 0-7894-7930-3; Oct.)

DK's Early Learners series, featuring oversize board books, encourages participation. In My Busy Day, "Laura and Jack made some fresh orange juice" (the baby's juice is gone). Children scratch and sniff a bowl of oranges and a pitcher of juice. Tabs along the side reiterate instructions. Later, children can pet a dog, swing the baby and look in a shiny plastic mirror. My Lift-the-Flap Book shows children in home and school settings. Captions ask children to identify, locate and count objects within each scene. (DK, $9.95 each 10p ages 1-3 ISBN 0-7894-7407-7; -7408-5; Oct.)

The Usborne Rattle Books series—My Bedtime; My Food; My Bathtime; My Toys; My Clothes; and My Animals—really shakes things up. The board books' full-color spreads match words to Howard Allman's photographs of Jo Litchfield's colorful clay models; the round format (save for the spine) and rattle embedded in the back cover add kid-appeal. (EDC/Usborne, $4.95 each 14p ages 1-4 ISBN 0-7945-0051-X; -0053-6; -0050-1; -0054-4; -0052-8; -0049-8; Jan.)

Two Pop-Up Pals accompany mini-books by Jennifer Loya, illus. by Susanna Ronchi. A restless rabbit's imaginings prompt youngsters to name the dreamed-of shapes in Bunny Wishes. "What shape twinkles in the sky?" reads the text as Bunny wishes upon a star. What Is Bear Waiting For? teaches color recognition. The storybook is set inside the cubes' front panel; while, like a jack-in-the-box, the plush animal emerges from the top of the cube. (Innovative Kids, $14.99 each 12p ages 1-4 ISBN 1-58476-080-X; -079-6; Nov.)

Similar to Jay Young's Magic Fact series, his ingenious use of a colorful striped hand in Moira Butterfield's spiral-bound Magic World of Learning, illus. by Sian Tucker, always points to the right answer when placed in the center of a circle on each page. Questions geared to a younger audience occur in 14 categories ranging from "Jobs People Do" and "Shapes" to "The Weather." Bright, thickly painted everyday objects in the borders provide clues. (Sterling/Big Fish, $19.95 32p ages 3-6 ISBN 0-8069-5587-2; Oct.)

She's not just a pretty face: in The Barbie Word Book the iconic doll teaches youngsters over 300 words. Each double-page spread shows a photograph with items that youngsters are asked to find; each item is shown and clearly labeled in the borders. A picture of Barbie in her kitchen asks, "Can you see my favorite thing to eat in the picture? What can I make for brunch today?" (DK, $12.95 32p ages 3-6 ISBN 0-7894-7336-4; Nov.)

Kathy Ross, author of Crafts from Your Favorite Children's Songs, here applies craft projects to Letter Sounds and Letter Shapes, both illus. by Jan Barger. Hands-on activities supplement phonics instruction. In the first title, for example, children associate the letter A with its sound using Play-Doh and peppercorns to craft an "Activity on an Anthill." The latter suggests making a butterfly magnet out of back-to-back B's. (Millbrook, $8.95 each 64p ages 3-6 ISBN 0-7613-1491-1; -1490-3; Mar.)

Pooh turns teacher in McGraw-Hill's new Parent & Child Read Together series: Pooh Helps Out by Kathleen Zoehfeld, adapted by Linda Armstrong, and The Blustery Day by Teddy Slater, also adapted by Armstrong. The left-hand side of each double page spread—with longer text and sight words highlighted in red—is geared to parents; opposite, children read the brief text, formed solely by the sight words featured on the previous page. Activity pages prompt children to copy and complete simple words and sentences. Perforated flash cards and additional activities are also included. (McGraw-Hill, $5.99 paper each 32p ages 3-4 ISBN 1-57768-731-0; -730-2; Nov.)

A trio of titles debuts in Usborne's Easy Words to Read series by Phil Roxbee Cox, illus. by Stephen Cartwright. In each, Cox weaves words with the same phonetic pattern into an engaging story. For instance, in Goose on the Loose, "Goose is on a scooter/ She can't stay and play/ She's a goose on the loose/ 'Get out of my way!' " Language consultant Marlynne Grant opens with an explanation about phonics. Other titles include: Frog on a Log and Hen's Pens. (EDC/Usborne, $6.95 paper each 16 p ages 3-5 ISBN 07945-00366; -01141; -01113; Jan.)

Four other titles in the publisher's Easy Words to Read series are available as lift-the flap board books: Ted in a Red Bed; Fat Cat on a Mat; Sam Sheep Can't Sleep; and Toad Makes a Road. (EDC/Usborne, $6.95 each 16p ages 3-5 -00617; -00595; -00609; -00625; Jan.)