Springtime Specials

New interactive titles celebrate spring and feature chicks and ducks just right for holiday baskets. The delicately embossed Little Duck Lost by author Erica Brier, illus. by Stephanie Boey (illustrator of The Little Penguin, also embossed), uses slightly raised borders, feathers, flora and fauna to highlight and bring texture to this touching story of a newborn duckling seeking his home. The embossing of the sturdy cardboard pages and detailed colored-pencil drawings lend a unique aspect to the book. (Dutton, $15.99 32p all ages ISBN 0-525-47232-0; Feb.)

A rhyming counting book, Ten Little Eggs by Jean Marzollo lets readers count down from 10, as hard plastic eggs peek through die-cut holes in thick pages and hatch into colorful birds. The rhymes themselves are simple enough for youngest readers, and the quirky birds outlined in black with bold shades help teach colors as well as numbers. (HarperFestival, $10.99 24p ages 3-6 ISBN 0-06-053052-9; Feb.)

Another playful color lesson, the paper-over-board Duckie's Rainbow by Frances Barry starts out as a quarter-circle and doubles to a half-circle when youngsters open the cover. As readers follow the feathered heroine's journey "through the red poppy field," "under the orange bridge" and onward, the book continues to change: the pages, decreasing in size, begin to form a large rainbow that stretches across the book's full width—with the colors in their proper order (ROYGBIV). (Candlewick, $7.99 14p ages 2-4 ISBN 0-7636-2066-1; Mar.)

Hattie the Hen clucks with joy after each egg she lays in the paper-over-board Cluck, Cluck Who's There? by James Mayhew, illus. by Caroline Jayne Church. Readers lift flaps on each page to reveal hidden eggs, bits of the story's text and ultimately three cheeping chicks. Spatters, dots and bits of newsprint that pepper the cheerful henhouse recall the confetti-like speckling of a bird's egg. (Scholastic/Chicken House, $9.95 20p ages 3-up ISBN 0-439-57737-3; Feb.)

Good Morning, Good Night! A Touch & Feel Bedtime Book by Teresa Imperato, illus. by Melanie Mitchell, contains full-page flaps that fold out to a three-page spread. With the flaps down, the pictures and adjoining rhymes detail daytime activities for a host of friendly animals; the flap opens to reveal the animals at rest, with large patches of fuzzy fur to pet. (Intervisual/Piggy Toes, $9.95 10p ages 3-up ISBN 1-58117-279-6; Feb.)

Spring Is Here: A Barnyard Counting Book by Pamela Jane, illus. by Melissa Sweet, chronicles the approach of warmer weather on Maggie's farm. Creatures pop up all over the barnyard, from one winking cat to 10 chirping birds. A pair of leaping crickets "chirp and sing/ They're happy that it's finally spring," while "five puppies play./ They roll and tumble in the hay." Sweet's trademark illustrations with their sketchy, fine lines, scribbles of texture and watercolor washes put the zing into spring. (S&S/Little Simon, $7.99 12p ages 3-7 ISBN 0-689-85388-2; Apr.)

Readers can spend a day with Mama Bunny and her warren in the paperback Fuzzy Wuzzy Bunny Tails by Raegan Randolph, illus. by Margie Moore, which comes with 20 fuzzy pom-pom stickers to affix to the bunnies. The book asks readers to identify and mark specific bunnies with the stickers (e.g., those carrying the most flowers or those that enjoy yellow jellybeans); it comes shrink-wrapped to protect those under three. (Grosset & Dunlap, $4.99 paper 24p ages 3-6 ISBN 0-448-43481-4; Jan.)

Youngest rabbit lovers can cuddle up with Hop-Along Bunny, a cloth book that opens out of a plush bunny's belly (the cloth pages can be sealed with Velcro). Readers follow the long-eared hero from the time Bunny spies a carrot ("Yum, yum!") to the end of a hard day ("Bunny is sleepy. Good night"). (Scholastic/Cartwheel, $7.99 8p ages infant-3 yrs. ISBN 0-439-62659-5; Feb.)

Hippity Hoppity

A pair of rabbit-themed reissues are back just in time to serve as basket treats. The 1947 classic The Golden Egg Book by Margaret Wise Brown, illus. by Leonard Weisgard, returns as a Big Little Golden Book. When a curious bunny finds a blue speckled egg, he tries everything from jumping on it to pelting it with rocks and acorns to find out what's inside. But since a watched egg never cracks, the mystery occupant only emerges at last when the bunny falls asleep. The soft, retro illustrations ably depict the animals' feisty youthful impatience and curiosity. (Random/ Golden, $8.99 32p ages 2-5 ISBN 0-375-82717-X; Jan.)

Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney, illus. by Anita Jeram, now appears in a gifty square-sized "Sweetheart Edition" for parent-child sharing, complete with a red cloth cover and gold type on the spine. (Candlewick, $12 32p all ages ISBN 0-7636-2240-0; Jan.)

More Duck and Bunny Tales

New additions feature springtime heroes. The star of Little Quack is back with Mama Duck and his four duckling siblings in Little Quack's Hide and Seek by Lauren Thompson, illus. by Derek Anderson. Mama is "It" as they all scramble to find the best hiding place in Anderson's lush pastel landscapes—and young readers learn the concept of subtraction. (S&S, $14.95 32p ages 2-6 ISBN 0-689-85722-5; Feb.)

Baby Duck is a bit under the weather in Guess Who, Baby Duck!, the newest in the series by Amy Hest, illus. by Jill Barton. But when Grampa comes to visit with an album "all filled up with pictures," Baby Duck soon feels much better. This comforting story may well inspire readers to look through their own baby albums. (Candlewick, $14.99 32p ages 2-5 ISBN 0-7636-1981-7; Mar.)

The little rabbit with big dreams returns in Lettice, the Flying Rabbit by Mandy Stanley. After watching a bird in flight, Lettice decides to test her own flying abilities ("She flapped her arms,/ she flapped her ears./ She even flapped her/ whiskers and tail, but/ nothing seemed to work"). With the help of a small pink airplane, she finally achieves her goal. Exuberant spot illustrations highlight her persistent efforts, and the breezy narration makes this an enjoyable tale. (S&S, $14.95 32p ages 3-8 ISBN 0-689-86234-2; Feb.)

A companion to Astro Bunnies and Cowboy Bunnies, Scuba Bunnies by Christine Loomis, illus. by Ora Eitan, suggests that bathtime is the perfect time for an undersea excursion. The bunnies "Poke and peek in secret places/ Peering into fishy places," while visiting pirate ships, avoiding sharks and making other aquatic acquaintances. (Putnam, $15.99 32p ages 2-up ISBN 0-399-23465-9; Feb.)

Board Book Basket Stuffers

A pair of picture books make ideal introductions to spring or Easter basket treats. In Countdown to Spring! An Animal Counting Book by Janet Schulman, illus. by Meilo So, youngsters can count down from 10 to one as different animals frolic in the fields ("9 Butterflies. See them flutter by"). About the original, PW wrote, "The illustrations provide the sweetest treat; laid with luscious brush strokes, So's cheerful, delicate watercolors delight the eye." (Knopf, $6.99 24p ages 6 mos.-2 yrs. ISBN 0-375-82695-5; Jan.)

With illustrations rendered in the gentlest of colored pencil, Little Baa by Kim Lewis invites readers to follow the hero as he strays from his flock and falls asleep far from his mother's view. With the help of the shepherd and his collie, the sheep reunite in a tender scene sure to comfort youngsters. (Candlewick, $6.99 24p ages 6 mos.-3 yrs. ISBN 0-7636-2472-1; Mar.)

Little Chick and Fuzzy Bunny by Salina Yoon look just like they sound; these two hand-size, shaped board books sport a plush character on their cover. In the first, the downy yellow chick celebrates spring with a blue flower, a spring shower and a picnic with a friend. Pink Fuzzy Bunny wears a spring bonnet, hosts a tea al fresco, then "hops... home with tired eyes." (S&S/Little Simon, $5.99 each 10p ages 1-4 ISBN 0-689-86383-7; -86382-9; Feb.)

Poetry in Motion

A spring crop of poetry as well as plays in verse, both classic and contemporary, celebrate life, art and humanity. Featuring a comprehensive biography on the poets and notes on their poems, the Poetry for Young People series adds two entries. William Carlos Williams, ed. by Christopher MacGowan, illus. by Robert Crockett, collects works from across the poet's long and intriguing career. Often making use of original structures and rhythms, his poems contain vivid images of American life, both urban and rural. The volume takes readers from lesser known works such as "Spring Strains" ("In a tissue-thin monotone of blue-grey buds/ crowded erect with desire against/ the sky—") to his popular "The Red Wheelbarrow." The poetry of Alfred, Lord Tennyson, ed. by John Maynard, illus. by Allen Garns, unfolds largely in traditional iambic pentameter and couplets, covering topics from Greek or Arthurian myths to the loss of a close friend. Excerpts from "The Lady of Shalott" and "The Charge of the Light Brigade" sit alongside the full text of "Crossing the Bar." In both volumes, colorful paintings act as concretely visual accompaniments. (Sterling, $14.95 each 48p ages 8-up ISBN 1-4027-0006-7; ISBN 0-8069-6612-2; Feb.)

Pint-sized poetry proliferates in Pocket Poems, ed. by Bobbi Katz, illus. by Marylin Hafner, with topics ranging from serious to silly. "Breakfast" takes an irreverent approach to Humpty Dumpty (it concludes, "Then all the King's horses/ And all the King's men/ Had scrambled eggs/ for breakfast again"); "Mary Had a Little Lamb," on the other hand, ends in dinner ("Mary had a little lamb,/ You've heard this tale before;/ But did you know/ She passed her plate/ And had a little more?"). Featured poets include Katz herself as well as Emily Dickinson and Carl Sandburg among others. Spot and panel illustrations help to group the poems thematically. (Dutton, $15.99 32p ISBN 0-525-47172-3; Mar.)

The famed star-crossed lovers receive theatrical attention in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet by Michael Rosen, illus. by Jane Ray. Beginning with a cast of players on the first spread, this presentation incorporates informal passages and descriptions with portions of Shakespeare's original text to help elucidate the plot. Ray creates a magical world; borders around each spread emulate a stage, and scenes of Italianate landscapes alternate with dramatic moments such as a scene of the lovers at their most joyous. (Candlewick, $17.99 80p ages 12-up ISBN 0-7636-2258-3; Jan.)