Uncovering History

A number of nonfiction texts give voice to important historical events and figures. Visually captivating and rich in detail, Portraits of African-American Heroes by Tonya Bolden, illus. by Ansel Pitcairn, traces the lives and achievements of 10 iconic African-Americans. Bolden selects men and women from periods throughout American history, from Frederick Douglass and W.E.B. Du Bois to Malcolm X and Ruth Simmons. Pitcairn captures the heroic personages of Bolden's subjects, activists and artists, intellectuals and explorers in b&w paintings (a portrait of Matthew Henson depicts him, fittingly, with a parka, as he accompanied Admiral Peary; they were the first two explorers to set foot on the North Pole). (Dutton, $18.99 96p ages 8-12 ISBN 0-525-47043-3; Jan.)

The author of Yankee Doodle Gal offers another comprehensive historical account of women in history with Count on Us: American Women in the Military by Amy Nathan. Beginning with America's drive for independence during the Revolutionary War, the author relates the exploits and legends of America's first female fighters, including Deborah Samson, Native American Tyonajanegen and Margaret Corbin. She tracks the progress and challenges of uniformed women right up to their efforts in the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Interviews, photographs and personal accounts of several brave, female soldiers add further depth to the text. (National Geographic, $21.95 96p ISBN 0-7922-6330-8; Mar.)

Young history and architecture buffs may appreciate the detailed information presented in Empire State Building: When New York Reached for the Skies by Elizabeth Mann, illus. by Alan Witschonke, the latest in the Wonders of the World series. Mann delineates the origins of the building, beginning with the business partnership between Al Smith and John Raskob. Well-labeled illustrations offer further explanations of the numerous columns, piers and other structural elements that combine to create this majestic skyscraper. (Miyaka [Firefly, dist.], $19.95 48p ages 9-13 ISBN 1-931414-06-8; Dec.)

Fans of the Little House on the Prairie books should enjoy delving into the life of the series' author in Prairie Girl: The Life of Laura Ingalls Wilder by William Anderson, illus. by Renée Graef. The book details the events of Laura's often-difficult life, including numerous relocations with her family across the frontier, and her sister Mary's fever, which resulted in blindness; also included is information about Laura's marriage to Almanzo Wilder, and the eventual publication of her books. (HarperCollins, $12.99 80p ages 7-10 ISBN 0-06-028973-2; Feb.)

True Companions

A smattering of picture books contribute to existing series. Mother and son collaborators Toni and Slade Morrison bring forth another modern take on an Aesop fable in Who's Got Game? Poppy or the Snake, illus. by Pascal Lemaître. Poppy tells his grandson the tale of a "sass-mouthed" snake who he accidentally ran over with his truck years ago. The snake convinces Poppy to take him home for a while ("You mean to tell me you not going to take me home and give me something to eat?"). This reworking puts the focus on the value of being careful and aware. (S&S/Scribner, $17.95 40p all ages ISBN 0-7432-2249-0; Jan.)

New to the HipKidHop series, The Mirror and Me by Common, illus. by Lorraine West, joins earlier books by such recording artists as LL Cool J and Doug E. Fresh. Here Common tells the tale of a South African boy who struggles with his identity in the face of difference all around him ("I'm a dark brother—/ darker than the darkest shade of brown./ .../ The way that I look, walk,/ and talk is different." West's lush illustrations capture the emotional struggle for self-discovery. The Grammy-nominated musical artist raps the lyrics, which double as the text in a CD, included. (Scholastic/ Cartwheel, $13.95 32p ages 7-10 ISBN 0-439-31386-4; Jan.)

In his third adventure, Goodnight, Copycub by Richard Edwards, illus. by Susan Winter, the hero has trouble falling asleep. Copycub's mother tells him to emulate restful forest animals as Winter's illustrations add to the overall soothing and lulling tone of this bedtime story. (HarperCollins, $15.99 32p ages 3-7 ISBN 0-06-056671-X; Jan.)

Harry is back for a second adventure, in which carnivores and herbivores alike accompany the hero to the dentist in order to have their teeth checked in Harry and the Dinosaurs Say "Raahh!" by Ian Whybrow, illus. by Adrian Reynolds. When Harry sets out to see Dr. Drake, a bucketful of dinosaurs help him get over his anxiety. (Random, $14.95 32p ages 4-8 ISBN 0-375-82542-8; Jan.)

Animals take to the road, sea and sky in Truck Duck, the latest vehicular volume (My Race Car; My Fire Engine) by Michael Rex. Animals take their favorite modes of transport—namely, those that rhyme with their own names. The slightly menacing Cab Crab and notably confident Tug Bug are priceless. (Putnam, $15.99 32p ages 2-up ISBN 0-399-24009-8; Jan.)

Kay Chorao brings her warm, gentle illustrations to another volume for infants in The Baby's Book of Baby Animals. As in her previous books (The Baby's Lap Book; The Baby's Bedtime Book; etc.), she compiles nursery rhymes and poems, both traditional and less familiar, to accompany a baby through his or her day, from waking up and bath time to bedtime, this time featuring both babies and adorable animals. (Dutton, $16.99 40p ages 1-up ISBN 0-525-47199-5; Jan.)

Think anemones are enemies? Readers can get the facts with the paper-over-board The Truth About Dangerous Sea Creatures by Mary Cerullo, illus. by Michael Wertz. This follow-up to The Truth About Great White Sharks is rife with underwater photographs by Jeffrey Rotman. The book debunks myths about many unjustly maligned sea animals, while on the other hand educating readers about many octopi, urchins and fish that are fully deserving of their nasty reputations. (Chronicle, $15.95 48p ages 8-up ISBN 0-8118-4050-6; Dec.)

You Can't See Your Bones with Binoculars: A Guide to Your 206 Bones by Harriet Ziefert, illus. by Amanda Haley, done in the style of their earlier books (You Can't Taste a Pickle with Your Ear and You Can't Buy a Dinosaur with a Dime), uses humor to deliver information about how the skeletal system works. Ziefert writes, "It is hard to feel your thigh bone, or femur, because it's covered by big muscles, which you need for walking, jumping, and running away from alligators!" (Handprint/Blue Apple [Chronicle, dist.], $15.95 32p ages 5-8 ISBN 1-59354-015-9; Dec.)

Two books add to the Early Experiences series by Fred Erlich, illus. by Emily Bolam: Does a Panda Go to School? explains why many members of the animal kingdom, unlike children, are unqualified to go to school; Does a Yak Get a Haircut? assuages children's fear of the barbershop. Bolam's zany illustrations add humor to both books, depicting animals in ludicrous settings. (Handprint/Blue Apple [Chronicle, dist.], $10.95 each 32p ages 2-5 ISBN 1-59354-017-5; -016-7; Dec.)

Part of the What Was It Like, Grandma? Series, Grandma Hekmatt Remembers: An Arab-American Family Story by Ann Morris demonstrates intergenerational love and the sharing of ethnic and religious traditions. Peter Linenthal's full-page and smaller inset photographs depict Hekmatt, her husband Hedaiet and their three granddaughters playing together, baking and worshipping at the mosque, as Hekmatt shares her memories and experiences with her family. The book provides children of all cultural backgrounds a glimpse into Arab-American traditions. (Millbrook, $7.95 paper 32p ages 5-8 ISBN 0-7613-1944-1; Dec.)

Familiar Faces, New Formats

Books for youngest readers featuring well-known characters are back in books with new sizes and formats. Rosemary Wells's Read to Your Bunny, which featured prominently in the 1997 "Read to Your Bunny" campaign, is now available in a larger, lap-size board book edition. About the original edition PW wrote, "The joy of reading shines on every fuzzy face." (Scholastic/Cartwheel, $7.99 12p ages 6 mos.-3 yrs. ISBN 0-439-54337-1; Dec.)

A.A. Milne's beloved bear is back in The Magical Pop-Up World of Winnie-the-Pooh, illus. by Andrew Grey, in a book that lives up to its title's promise. Keith Finch's paper engineering recreates five scenes (such as the famous image of Pooh attached to a balloon, attempting to raid a treetop hive for honey) from classic Pooh tales in three-dimensional environments. The book more than makes up for being slightly cumbersome (an adult or older sibling's assistance will be welcomed) with the sheer delight of the Hundred Acre Woods unfolding before their eyes. (Dutton, $24.99 5 fold-out scenes ISBN 0-525-47141-3; Dec.)

Two titles inspired by Crockett Johnson's books feature Harold wielding his purple crayon in interactive adventures. In Harold Takes a Trip by Lisa Ann Marsoli, illus. by Andy Chiang, readers can guide Harold along grooved tracks as he imagines his way through pop-up environments at the North Pole, a gingerbread house and a medieval kingdom. In Harold's Birthday Surprise, Harold, "too excited to sleep" the night before his birthday, takes an imaginary tactile journey with rubbery balloons, fluffy clouds and animal friends of various fun textures—with the end destination a warm, fuzzy bed. (Intervisual/Piggy Toes, $7.95 10p ages 3-up ISBN 1-58117-262-1; Surprise $6.95 -261-3; Feb.)

A Gathering of Stories

Professional storyteller Donna L. Washington brings to life six traditional stories from several African nations in A Pride of African Tales, illus. by James Ransome, including Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon and the Congo. She includes a strong range of selections, from a well-known trickster tale of Anansi (about a greedy young prince who desires to possess the moon and a talking skull, and which teaches a lesson on keeping one's mouth shut) to a lesser-known "taboo story" called "The Wedding Basket," a graceful story of a rich man who does not respect his wife's wishes and loses her. Ransome's lush watercolor paintings make the African settings seem palpable. (HarperCollins/Amistad, $16.99 80p ages 6-10 ISBN 0-06-024929-3; Jan.)

New Magics: An Anthology of Today's Fantasy, ed. by Patrick Nielson Hayden, collects 12 tales of the fantastic, with works by bestselling authors such as Orson Scott Card, Jane Yolen and others. The wildly diverse subject matter covers everything from the imagined travels of the lost hair of Jo March (of Little Women) in a tale by Susan Palwick to a pair of very different accounts of the Holy Grail's reemergence in Neil Gaiman's "Chivalry" and "Stealing God" by Debra Doyle and James D. Macdonald. (Tor, $19.95 272p ages 12-up ISBN 0-765-30015-X; Feb.)

It's All Fun and Games

Several titles invite kids to engage in a variety of games and activities. With plenty of oddball ideas, Playing with Stuff: Outrageous Games with Ordinary Objects by Ferry Piekart and Lars Deltrap may well keep kids occupied throughout their formative years. On the premise that everyday household items have limitless playtime potential, The author offers rules to such games as "Water Waddle," a race in which contestants tuck cups of water inside their socks; and "Scatter Clatter," a take on Hide and Seek wherein all players tape pebble-filled soda cans to their feet—in short, irreverent, zany games that kids will wish they had invented. (Kane/Miller, $9.95 paper 48p ages 6-12 ISBN 1-929132-62-X; Mar.)

Offering a multitude of projects for crafty kids, Totally Cool Journals, Notebooks & Diaries by Janet Pensiero, gives instructions for dozens of scrapbooking projects. Some of the inventive ideas include using small pieces of faux fur or fabrics as slipcovers for ordinary notebooks, creating tiny books for keychains or necklaces, and recycling pizza and candy boxes to use as raw materials. Full-color photos, illustrations and diagrams will help to inspire creative readers. (Sterling, $19.95 96p ages 8-12 ISBN 1-4027-0341-4; Feb.)

Two books launch the Asian Arts and Crafts for Creative Kids series: Origami by Michael LaFosse, and Haiku by Patricia Donegan. The first title begins with an introduction with suggestions and sources for finding good origami paper, as well as a brief synopsis of terms, techniques and symbols, then demonstrates over one dozen origami projects. Haiku offers a history of the Japanese poetic form and numerous tools to get young poets writing their own. (Tuttle, $9.95 each 64p ages 7-12 ISBN 0-8048-3497-0; -3501-2; Jan.)