Return Engagements

Several familiar characters perform encores this fall. In the third installment in Karen Salmansohn's paper-over-board Alexandra Rambles On! series, Wherever I Go, There I Am, Alex outwits her mother ("I have a different definition of 'No.' For me, no just means a slow yes") and attends her first horror movie. She also makes a cool present for her V.B.F. (Very Best Friend) Liz's 13th birthday and travels solo to New York City. Hand lettering and magic marker illustrations give it a tween touch. (Tricycle, $12.95 70p ages 9-12 ISBN 1-58246-079-5; Nov.)

The Healer's Keep by Victoria Hanley follows Princess Saravelda, the 16-year-old daughter of Queen Torina (last seen in Hanley's The Seer and the Sword) as she unites with Dorjan, a fellow student at Healer's Keep (where they study the mystic arts). The two soon join with Dorjan's half-sister, Maeve, in a heroic battle against the evil Shadow King. (Holiday, $17.95 384p ages 12-up ISBN 0-8234-1760-3; Oct.)

Twelve-year-old Dossi Rabinowitz has come home to Manhattan's Lower East Side after spending two weeks as a Fresh Air child on the Meade family's Vermont farm in 1910, in Faraway Summer by Johanna Hurwitz. In this sequel, Dear Emma, Dossi recounts the changes in her life through letters to Emma Meade, including the launch of her eighth-grade year, her sister Ruthi's marriage to a pharmacist and, on a larger scale, the 1911 fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory (where Ruthi had previously worked). (HarperCollins, $15.99 160p ages 8-12 ISBN 0-06-029840-5; Nov.)

Destination: The Met

For 35 years, even readers who have never traveled to New York City have visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art, courtesy of Claudia Kincaid, heroine of From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg. Winner of the 1968 Newbery Medal, this novel charts one girl's mission to run away from her straight-As life to somewhere beautiful—the Met. In the process, she becomes obsessed with uncovering the secrets of a breathtaking statue. A 35th-anniversary dust jacket and a new afterword by the author caps this adventure that has captivated readers for more than a quarter-century. (S&S/Atheneum, $16.95 176p ages 8-12 ISBN 0-689-85322-X; Nov.)

Close-Up on Art

A quartet of titles challenge readers to look beyond the basics when it comes to artwork. For Susan Goldman Rubin's picture book biography Degas and the Dance: The Painter and the Petits Rats, Perfecting Their Art, created in partnership with the School of American Ballet and the American Federation of Arts, readers go backstage at the Paris Opéra to explore the genesis of Edgar Degas's most recognizable series. More than 30 works are reproduced, including The Dance Class (1874) and Dancers Practicing at the Barre (1877). Numerous preliminary sketches reveal the artist's creative process. (Abrams, $17.95 32p ages 5-9 ISBN 0-8109-0567-1; Oct.)

Questions and instructions accompany 18 paintings, which span a range of styles and time periods in Look! Zoom in on Art! by Gillian Wolfe. "You are looking up in the tent, yet you seem to be looking down at the top figure. Why?" Wolfe asks, referring to John Steuart Curry's portrait of trapeze artists The Flying Codonas. Back matter contains more information about each work of art (all but one are by male artists). (Oxford, $16.95 40p ages 10-up ISBN 0-19-521912-0; Nov.)

Paintings from the Metropolitan Museum of Art undergo scrutiny in Can You Find It? by Judith Cressy. The text prompts onlookers to investigate 19 paintings that each stretch across a spread and are abutted by vertical panels with color-coded lists of more than 150 items to locate. Peter Saul's View of San Francisco, Number 2, for example, challenges children to find "6 ships/ 3 palm trees/ 3 bridges/ 1 wiggly road/ 1 tunnel/ 3 pagodas/ 1 doughnut-shaped building/ & the number 76 twice." Back matter provides the answers and further information about each artist. (Abrams, $15.95 48p ages 5-9 ISBN 0-8109-3279-2; Nov.)

You can't always believe what you see in The Great Book of Optical Illusions by Al Seckel. Organized in eight sections called "galleries," the exhaustive volume presents more than 280 color and b&w images created by the likes of M.C. Escher, Salvador Dalí, Shigeo Fukuda and René Magritte. Classics such as Impossible Staircase and Rubin's Face/Vase Illusion are also included; Seckel's IllusionWorks presents brand-new stunners, each of which is explained at chapter's end. (Firefly, $24.95 paper 304p all ages ISBN 1-55297-650-5; Oct.)

A Little Help from Friends

Guidebooks and journals celebrate friendship and help kids cope with difficulty. The Best Friends' Handbook: The Totally Cool One-of-a-Kind Book About You and Your Best Friend by Erica Orloff and Alexa Milo, illus. by Carolyn Fisher, provides fill-in-the-blanks and picture frames in which to document the friendship. There are places to take inventory ("The ways my best friend is different from me are...") and record stories ("The funniest thing that ever happened to my best friend and me was..."). A BFQ (Best Friend Quotient) quiz tests readers' knowledge about their buddy; a q&a section offers advice. (Walker, $7.95 paper 96p ages 8-14 ISBN 0-8027-7645-0; Oct.)

With any luck, best friends won't end up as entries in My Book of Mean People Journal by Toni and Slade Morrison, illus. by Pascal Lemaître. The compact, spiral-bound offering serves as a companion to The Book of Mean People (Children's Forecasts, Sept. 9) and provides a place for children to draw and write about their thoughts and experiences. Questions ("Sometimes people don't intend to be mean. They're mean because they're really feeling something else. What do you think they're feeling?") encourage reflection. (Hyperion, $4.99 paper 64p all ages ISBN 0-7868-089-0; Sept.)

Brothers Frank and Joe offer words of wisdom in The Hardy Boys' Guide to Life by Franklin W. Dixon. The slim edition culls quotes from the Hardy Boys' books and addresses such subjects as survival tactics, detective work, etiquette and more. "Useful Catch Phrases" ("Junipers! That was a close squeak!" from The Secret of the Caves) and "Lessons Learned" ("A smart operator wipes off all traces clean as a whistle!" from The Mystery of the Chinese Junk) round out the presentation. Jacket art from the series illustrates the text. (S&S, $8.95 48p all ages ISBN 0-689-85541-9; Oct.)

Rhyme Time

A pair of poetic offerings examine intricate mazes and nature after dark. Not quite an alphabet book and not purely a puzzler, Philippe Mignon's handsomely designed Labyrinths: Can You Escape from the 26 Letters of the Alphabet? ups the ante with 26 mystical poems opposite meticulously drawn artwork framed in a generous white border. For C, "a Chinese pagoda/ stands on its own./ Solitary dreamers/ and lovers alike/ tell it their secrets," readers can spot a pair of lovers and a solo dreamer in a pagoda stationed at the center of a geometrically patterned, elaborate walkway. The poem "Elephant" uses a classic Indian palette and motif for its visual puzzle. (Firefly, $14.95 64p ages 10-up ISBN 1-55297-559-2; paper $9.95 -579-7; Oct.)

Written from the perspective of a white-footed mouse, Joanne Ryder's Mouse Tail Moon, illus. by Maggie Kneen, presents 18 poems that follow the creature's adventures from dusk in "Sunberry" to dawn, when he wishes readers a "day fair and warm" in "A Mousekin Blessing." Kneen's watercolors make the mice appealing without anthropomorphizing them. (Holt, $16.95 32p ages 4-9 ISBN 0-8050-6404-4; Oct.)

From A to Z

A colorful roundup of titles present the rudiments—in style. Animals emerge from delicate cut-paper snowflakes in Zooflakes ABC by Will C. Howell. Crafted from white rice paper, each circular design ("A is for Alligator," "B is for Bear") stands out against black discs on saturated color spreads. Back matter offers a brief paper-cutting tutorial; endpapers exhibit all 26 flakes. (Walker, $15.95 32p ages 3-6 ISBN 0-8027-8826-2; Oct.)

Famous players, positions, game rules and more make up Matt Napier's Z Is for Zamboni: A Hockey Alphabet, illus. by Melanie Rose. Written in verse, the book begins with the arena where it all happens ("A is for Arena./ The game is played in here,/ A building where the fans all gather/ to clap and boo and cheer"), closes with the Zamboni that cleans the ice for the next face-off, and includes the roles of players and some of the stars ("B is for two Bobbys,/ with last names of Hull and Orr"). Up-close paintings of intent players and landscape views of the rink vary the pacing. (Sleeping Bear [800-487-2323], $19.95 40p. ages 4-8 ISBN 1-58536-065-1; Oct.)

Part of the Afro-Bets series, two paperbacks by Cheryl Willis Hudson star a cast of six African-American characters that bend and twist to represent concepts. In Afro-Bets ABC Book, labeled illustrations reinforce letter sounds (K stands for "kitten," "keys" and "Kente cloth"). Counting from one to 10 is the subject of Afro-Bets 1 2 3 Book. (Scholastic/Cartwheel, $3.50 each paper 24p ags 2-6 ISBN 0-439-42917-X; -42916-1; Oct.)

Edward Lear's A Was Once an Apple Pie kicks off A Treasury of Alphabets, illus. by various artists. For example, Jan Barger illustrates "The Shaker Abecedarius" from The Shaker Manifesto (1882); and Lynne Chapman a section entitled "An Alphabet of Nursery Rhymes," which collects Mother Goose verse alphabetized by opening lines. (Scholastic/Chicken House, $17.95 96p ages 3-up ISBN 0-439-40433-9; Oct.)

Concepts Made Simple

Readers who open the vinyl-coated, padded cover of Picture My World: First Word Book will discover more than 400 words presented in eight sections (including "clothing," "transportation" and "animals"). Crisp, clearly labeled photos appear in nursery-hued checkerboard spreads, and a pink mouse named Monty hosts the proceedings. Each page asks a question related to the pictures; for example, a spread with an artichoke, broccoli, pumpkin and green peas asks, "What vegetable is carved for Halloween?" (Hyperion, $12.99 148p ages 1-4 ISBN 0-7868-1992-8; Sept.)

Sally and her dog, Sam, introduce two titles in the Another Season series by Jimmy Pickering: It's Fall and It's Winter. The illustrations have the feel and movement of animated cartoons. Rhyming couplets carry the simple activities (from Fall: "Sally and Sam look outside to see/ A chilly wind whistling through their big tree./ The leaves that were green,/ High over their heads,/ Are now full of yellows/ and ambers and reds"). (Tallfellow/Smallfellow, $16.95 each 32p ages 4-8 ISBN 1-931290-15-6; -16-4; Oct.)