Captivating Collections

Contemporary stories and ghost stories, fables and folktales fill a wide variety of short story and poetry collections. The timely anthology Lines in the Sand: New Writing on War and Peace, edited by Mary Hoffman and Rhiannon Lassiter, gathers over 150 stories, poems and illustrations about the horrors of war and hopes for peace. Writers and artists explore situations around the world in the distant and recent past as well as the present; contributors include Laurence Anholt, Kevin Crossley-Holland, Chris Riddell and Jane Yolen. The collection offers a good launch point for discussion, and all royalties go to "UNICEF's emergency appeal for the children of Iraq." (Disinformation Company [212-691-1605], $7.95 paper 288p ages 8-up ISBN 0-9729529-1-8; Nov.)

Riding Low on the Streets of Gold, edited by Judith Ortiz Cofer, gathers stories and poems from contemporary Hispanic literature. The themes run from the magical—such as "The Fabulous Sinkhole" by Jesús Salvador Treviño, in which life in a small border town is changed by the mysterious appearance of a hole in a resident's yard that yields gifts—to the realistically human—as with "Carrying Sergei" by Mike Padilla in which a 14-year-old girl impulsively harms a classmate, then attempts to set things right. (Arte Público/Piñata, $14.95 paper 224p ages 12-up ISBN 1-55885-380-4; Nov.)

New Skies: An Anthology of Today's Science Fiction, edited by Patrick Nielsen Hayden, gathers 17 stories starring aliens and dimensions beyond the 3-D world. In "They're Made Out of Meat" by Terry Bisson, a pair of aliens are stunned to discover an intelligent species made not of machinery or gasses, but of flesh. A boy and his dog exchange bodies with a pair of tentacled aliens in "Brian and the Aliens" by Will Shetterly. And in the award-winning "Tangents" by Greg Bear, a scientist and a kid make contact with the fourth dimension. (Tor, $19.95 288p ages 13-up ISBN 0-765-30016-8; Nov.)

A collection of 12 spooky stories, The Ghostly Rider and Other Chilling Tales by Hernan Moreno-Hinojosa revisits familiar themes—such as "Lady Death," in which a young man scoffs at an old man's tale of seeing the face of death itself—until he, too, comes face-to-face with her—and the titular story in which a man meets a beautiful girl on a bus, only to discover she died years ago. (Arte Público/Piñata, $9.95 ages 11-up ISBN 1-55885-400-2; Nov.)

Written in free verse, The Pond God and Other Stories by Samuel Jay Keyser, illus. by Robert Shetterly, offers more than 40 brief tales or fables about wise or foolish gods, and explores the gods' human qualities with humor and insight. In the title story, a young shape-changing god offends the other gods, changes into a lake and the other gods drink enough to transform him into a pond for a thousand years; however, in this form he finds contentment ("And that is why contentment is not something one seeks/ but something one finds," reads the closing moral). A crying god causes the rain in the pourquoi tale "Where Rain Comes from," and "The Stony Gods" offers a fable that explains "Only by touching others do we touch ourselves." (Front Street [PGW, dist.], $14.95 96p ages 8-up ISBN 1-886910-96-0; Oct.)

Michael Bedard collects 23 stories from the Liao-Chai in The Painted Wall and Other Strange Tales, ancient stories from Chinese oral and written traditions. A Taoist priest teaches a stingy pear-seller a lesson in "Planting a Pear Tree." In "The Tiger of Chao-cheng," when a tiger kills an old woman's only son, the magistrate orders the tiger to provide for the old woman as a son would. In "Pianpian, the Leaf Fairy," a young man falls for a mysterious woman who makes clothes, food and even a mule out of leaves, and he learns the fragility of love. (Tundra, $16.95 128p ages 10-up ISBN 0-88776-652-8; Nov.)

Poetry in Motion

In the essays and poems of Tai Chi Morning: Snapshots of China by Nikki Grimes, illus. by Ed Young, the poet reflects on her experiences in China in 1988 as part of an arts advocacy group. On many of the book's pages, the text or photographs (taken by the author) appear to be printed upon delicately crinkled rice paper. Young's pen-and-inks of street scenes, a lone plowman, or hundreds of bicycles lend an intimacy to Grimes's well-honed impressions. In one of the many standouts, "Huang Shan & the Great Wall," Grimes writes, "I, Huang Shan am living, breathing/ deftly carved by Heaven's hand./ What makes you great, you wingless dragon,/ wriggling lifeless through the land?" A photograph of the Great Wall, and Young's image of the masses descending from the stairs that lead to its seemingly endless walkway, reinforce the poet's dramatic imagery. (Cricket, $15.95 64p ages 12-up ISBN 0-8126-2707-5; Jan.)

In The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars, poems collected (including several of Wallace's own) and illus. by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace, an assortment of poems explore beacons of day and night. For "Pillow Song," by Russell Hoban ("Moony, moony, silver deep/ Ocean rock me to my sleep/ Morning sunshine in my cup/ Sing a song to wake me up"), Wallace shows two scenes, as one of her signature bunnies slumbers under a crescent moon, then wakes to the sunrise. The playful "Sunflakes" by Frank Asch imagines what it would be like "If sunflakes fell like snowflakes," for which Wallace portrays a "sunbunny" equivalent of a snowman. (Houghton, $12 40p ages 3-7 ISBN 0-618-26353-5; Oct.)

Selections from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's epic poem appear in The Song of Hiawatha, illus. by Margaret Early, which traces Hiawatha's life from his birth through his search for and battle with his estranged father, culminating in his marriage to Minnehaha. The picture book leaves out some of the more sophisticated ideas, keeping each excerpt to one left-hand page, opposite a dramatic painted scene on the right. Brief synopses fill in sections of plot not covered in the excerpted verses themselves. Early's paintings depict Hiawatha's journeys in colorfully stylized scenes. (Handprint [Chronicle, dist.], $16.95 32p ages 6-up ISBN 1-59354-002-7; Dec.)

For the scientifically and poetically inclined, the 41 poems in Brain Juice: Science, Fresh Squeezed! by Carol Diggory Shields, illus. by Richard Thompson, distill scientific facts into simple formulas via clever rhymes and mnemonics. In the tragic romance, "Chemical Reaction," Shields writes, "He was acid, she was alkaline./ He wasn't her type, but he thought she looked fine." Political cartoonist Thompson's exuberant drawings combine with the text to supersaturate the pages with wit and levity. (Handprint [Chronicle, dist.], $14.95 64p ages 7-up ISBN 1-59354-005-1; Dec.)

Interactive Fun Monkeys, jokes and other high-interest topics take center stage in several interactive books. Monkey Business: A Jungle Pop-Up by Paul Stickland features an impressive display of paper engineering as the monkey stars gather all the jungle creatures together to meet their new arrivals (baby monkeys). The monkeys pop out of bushes, elephants wave their trunks, a tiger leaps out at readers and a forest scene recaps the entire cast, complete with a rainbow. (Handprint/Ragged Bears [Chronicle, dist.], $17.95 12p ages 2-6 ISBN 1-929927-49-5; Dec.)

You Must Be Joking! by Paul Brewer boasts more than 200 jokes and riddles about aliens, monsters, computers, family and more. "What goes Hahahaaaaaaaah! Thump!? Answer: You, laughing your head off!" In addition, 17½ tips for remembering, telling and making up your own jokes encourage kids to keep the giggles coming. (Cricket, $15.95 128p ages 8-12 ISBN 0-8126-2661-3; Nov.)

It's arts-and-crafts time for preschoolers with two new paper-over-board books by Nellie Shepherd: My Picture Art Class and My Puppet Art Class. Both use easy-to-find art supplies and everyday materials to assemble an assortment of projects. In the first title, easy directions and imaginative ideas help preschoolers create a collage of the world under the sea. The second book offers creative ideas for constructing an assortment of puppets from Elsie the Elephant to a colorful dragon. Photos of materials, finished project ideas and kids at work make the ideas fun and accessible. (DK, $12.99 each 48p ages 3-5 ISBN 0-7894-9856-1; -9855-3; Nov.)