Girls' Picks, Collected

The highly popular saga of an ordinary-girl-turned-princess is dressed up in a hot pink boxed set of paperbacks, The Princess Diaries: Volumes I—III by Meg Cabot. In The Princess Diaries, Manhattan high-school student Mia Thermopolis finds out—to her dismay—that's she's actually a princess, next in line for the throne of a small European country. In Princess in the Spotlight and Princess in Love, Mia gets caught up in royal turmoil and boyfriend troubles. (HarperCollins, $19.99 12 up ISBN 0-06-058745-8; Oct.)

First published in the 1980s and early '90s, and reissued with photographic covers in 2001, a quartet of the Alice books by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor are now available in a boxed set of paperbacks, The World of Alice. In The Agony of Alice, Alice is looking for a role model, but her family is no help. Who's going to show her how to be a teenager? Alice has her first boyfriend in Alice in Rapture, Sort Of, but she finds that a boyfriend can be much more complicated than a friend. The heroine can think of seven things about seventh grade that stink, in Reluctantly Alice —but there's a lot to like about junior high, too. In All but Alice, Alice just wants to fit in, but soon discovers that she doesn't like everything the "in" crowd does. (S&S/Aladdin, $19.95 ages 8-12 ISBN 0-689-03028-2; Oct.)

Lizzie McGuire fans will clamor for My Very First Way Cool Boxed Set! Volumes 1—4, based on the series created by Terri Minsky, containing the first four books (in paperback) chronicling Lizzie's ups and downs in junior high. In When Moms Attack!, Lizzie learns that the chaperone for the class camping trip is her mom. In Totally Crushed!, the school geek asks Lizzie out on a date. Lizzie becomes friends with the class troublemaker in Lizzie Goes Wild. And in The Rise and Fall of the Kate Empire, Lizzie's ex-friend, a popular cheerleader, needs Lizzie's help. Tucked into the slipcase is a magnet featuring a smiling Lizzie. (Disney/Volo , $12.99 ages 8-12 ISBN 0-7868-3504-4; Oct.)

Brand new to the series is the ninth installment, Just Like Lizzie, adapted by Jasmine Jones. Lizzie models in a fashion show and lands a contract with a teen magazine. Now the popular kids want to hang out with her, "superhottie" Ethan gets nervous around her, and even her best friends start acting strange. Lizzie just wants things to go back to normal. (Disney/Volo, $4.99 paper 144p ages 8-12 ISBN 0-7868-4546-5; Oct.)

Familiar Fun

Three Miss Spider stories are collected in the boxed set Miss Spider Board Books by David Kirk with a red plastic handle for easy toting. In Miss Spider's ABC, "Ants await" and "Bumblebees blow balloons" as the insects prepare a surprise birthday party for the popular arachnid. In Miss Spider's Tea Party: The Counting Book, children can count from the titular "one lonely spider [who] wished to play" to the two beetles who "gasped and ran away" and a host of other bugs too afraid to join her tea party. In Miss Spider's New Car, the heroine tries out several sets of slick wheels until she finds a gentle car that's just right. (Scholastic/Callaway, $12.95 ages 6 mos.-3 yrs. ISBN 0-439-54317-7; Oct.)

Miss Spider also appears in new miniature hardcover editions of Little Miss Spider, in which a baby Miss Spider searches for her mother; and Little Miss Spider: Sunny Patch School, in which the tiny spider goes to class and discovers her true talent: kindness. (Scholastic/Callaway, $5.99 32p ages 4-8 ISBN 0-439-54315-0; -54316-9; Oct.)

The boxed set Biddle Storybooks collects a quartet of stories by David Kirk. In Little Mouse Biddle Mouse, a mouse goes in search of food and learns to share. In Little Bunny Biddle Bunny, a bunny explores sunny meadows, but returns to the cozy comforts of home. A fastidious piglet learns it's more fun to play with the other piglets in the mud than to stay clean and lonely in Little Pig Biddle Pig. And in Little Bird Biddle Bird, a baby bird bravely ventures out on its own to search for food when its mother is away. (Scholastic/Callaway, $12.95 ages 3-5 ISBN 0-439-54318-5; Oct.)

Leo Lionni's Little Mice Tales brings together four classic stories starring resourceful mice into a boxed set of miniature paper-over-board editions. In the Caldecott Honor book Frederick, rather than gathering corn and nuts with the other mice, the hero collects colors, warmth and words to see the mice through the winter. In Matthew's Dream, a little mouse has a dream that inspires him to be a painter. A magical cheese sculpture teaches Geraldine how to make music in Geraldine, the Music Mouse. And in Tillie and the Wall, the youngest mouse finally finds out what's on the other side of a big wall. Lionni's colorful collage illustrations complement his simple but evocative text. (Knopf, $15.95 32p each ages 3-8 ISBN 0-375-82615-7; Oct.)

Based on a 1950 Academy Award—winning motion picture by Dr. Seuss, the board book Gerald McBoing Boing Sound Book tells the story of a toddler with an unusual way of communicating: "When he started talking,/ you know what he said?/ He didn't talk words—/ he went boing boing instead!" A sound chip in the back of the book makes the titular sound, and is accessible from all spreads through a die-cut hole in the sturdy pages. Retro artwork adapted by Mel Crawford adds a funny, nostalgic appeal to this book previously published in a longer picture book form. (Random, $7.99 10p ages 1-4 ISBN 0-375-82443-X; Sept.)

Traditions Old and New

From Kwanzaa and Christmas, to naming ceremonies and family reunions, Coming Together: Celebrations for African American Families by Harriette Cole and John Pinderhughes takes a close look at the occasions celebrated by many African-American families, and the values and history that shaped those traditions. The chapter on Kwanzaa, for instance, explains the meanings behind the seven Kwanzaa candles as well as the holiday's seven principles, and includes brief biographies of "Heroes and Heroines." For Christmas, the volume presents tips for hosting a tree-trimming party and information on researching a family genealogy. Generously illustrated with full-color photographs of contemporary families plus archival b&w photos, this handsome volume gives creative ideas for involving the entire family, with crafts, recipes and activities. (Hyperion/Jump at the Sun, $22.99 all ages 128p ISBN 0-7868-0753-9; Oct.)

True Companions

In the second book about the siblings who serenade on the river, The Gaggle Sisters Sing Again by Chris Jackson, the pair meets a talented frog. Dorothy's practical solutions combine with Sadie's high-strung nature to create an unforgettable river show. (Lobster Press [PGW, dist.], $15.95 32p ages 4-6 ISBN 1-894222-56-3; Sept.)

In another addition to the Vermont Folklife Center series, a farmer and his wife discover strange happenings in The Ghost on the Hearth by Susan Milford, illus. by Lydia Dabcovich. Every morning they find wax on the hearth, even though their hired girl cleans it every night. This gentle ghost story paints an evocative portrait of life in 19th-century rural Quebec. (Vermont Folklife Center [Univ. Press of New England, dist.], $15.95 32p ages 6-10 ISBN 0-916718-18-2; Oct.)

The boa constrictor from The Day Jimmy's Boa Ate the Wash creates more merry mayhem when a basketball practice and a dance lesson comically collide in Jimmy's Boa and the Bungee Jump Slam Dunk by Trina Hakes Noble, illus. by Steven Kellogg. Rendered in ink and pencil line, watercolor wash and acrylic paint, Kellogg's detail-filled art chronicles these zany goings-on with characteristic vitality and wit. (Dial, $16.99 32p ages 4-8 ISBN 0-8037-2600-7; Sept.)

The team behind Night Garden pair up again for Knock on Wood: Poems About Superstitions by Janet S. Wong, illus. by Julie Paschkis. A few poems may require reading the explanation of the superstition first, but the best dig into the spirit of the superstitions, as in "Umbrellas": "The ghost of my grandfather came by for an apple/ and a cup of coffee, once./ If I knew he would come to visit again,/ I would open both our umbrellas now and wait—/ and we would walk in this rain." The real star is Paschkis's illustrations, which conjure a dreamlike world. (S&S/McElderry, $17.95 40p ages 7-10 ISBN 0-689-85512-5; Sept.)

The heroine of Laura's Star and Laura's Christmas Star has a secret friend—a shimmery star (represented in shiny holographic foil)—in Laura's Secret by Klaus Baumgart, trans. from the German by Judy Waite. When big kids tease Laura and her brother because their kite won't fly, Laura knows just what to do—she calls to her secret friend: "Little star, wherever you are, please come and help." (Tiger Tales, $16.95 32p ages 3-7 ISBN 1-58925-031-1; Sept.)

As she did with Fire Engines, Anne Rockwell wryly populates her At the Firehouse with dalmatians, as she takes readers inside the station on Visitor's Day. Jason and his friend Camilla meet Captain Jack, a real firefighter, and sit in the driver's seat of Engine Number One (the pumper truck) and Engine Number Two (the ladder truck). (HarperCollins, $15.99 40p ages 3-6 ISBN 0-06-029815-4; Sept.)