True Companions

New titles extend popular children's series. The inimitable mouse and her friends head to the country and pop a tent in Maisy Goes Camping by Lucy Cousins. After singing songs 'round the campfire, the gang heads for bed. But will they all fit inside the tent? (Candlewick, $12.99 32p ages 2-5 ISBN 0-7636-2369-5; May)

David Kirk's famous arachnid and her family expand significantly in the paper-over-board Miss Spider's Sunny Patch Kids. Opening with the birth of five tykes for Miss Spider and Holley, one of the children, Squirt, finds an abandoned egg. He takes off alone to find its mother and, when Miss Spider comes to her child's rescue, her family grows even larger. An animated series of the same name will premiere in June. (Scholastic/Callaway, $14.95 40p all ages ISBN 0-439-40870-9; May)

In his third jungle junket, Zigby Dives In by Brian Paterson, the upbeat zebra and his pals Bertie and McMeer tire of playing basketball and happen upon a hidden lagoon perfect for a day of fishing. When McMeer loses his net, Zigby must contend with an eight-armed foe to get it back. (HarperCollins, $12.99 32p ages 2-5 ISBN 0-06-053799-X; May)

Kids trade their winter coats for swimsuits in All You Need for a Beach by Alice Schertle, illus. by Barbara Lavallee. As in their All You Need for a Snowman, author and artist evoke an experience as an accretion of "necessary" details—and children. "One grain of sand, like the smallest seed, one tiny grain, that's all you need for a beach!" the text declares. Subsequent admonitions ("Wait!"; "But") lead to additional beach necessities such as the sun, toys, snacks, sea birds and, of course, the ocean. (Harcourt/Silver Whistle, $16 32p ages 2-5 ISBN 0-15-216755-2; May)

Puppy pals Victor and Butch return in Ahoyty-Toyty by Helen Stephens, a companion to Poochie-Poo. When their owners, Miss Loopy and Miss Froopy-Frou-Frou take a cruise, the pups "couldn't wait to explore." When they meet the ship captain's dog, the snooty Lord Laa-Di-Dah, Butch impresses him, while Victor flubs and fumbles in front of him. Will this new dog drive a wedge between the friends? (Random/Fickling, $14.95 32p ages 3-7 ISBN 0-385-75039-0; Apr.)

Roxie Munro takes eagle-eyed readers out West in Ranch, presenting a different area of it in full-bleed spreads, from the wide-open range with grazing cows to the shed, cookshack and office. Each page includes a paragraph of information, followed by a list of items to find in each setting. (Bright Sky [866-933-6133], $16.95 36p ages 3-7 ISBN 1-931721-37-8; May)

"Little brothers can be a lot of trouble," begins My Little Brother by David McPhail, a companion to Sisters. A disgruntled older sibling narrates his litany of perceived unfair situations ("It's my job to feed our puppy and clean up her messes. All my little brother does is play ball with her"), depicted with softly edged watercolors over pen-and-ink drawings. The book's more optimistic ending suggests that brotherly bonds are stronger than the daily discord. (Harcourt, $16 32p ages 3-7 ISBN 0-15-204900-2; May)

A follow-up to Rover, Howler by Michael Rosen, illus. by Neal Layton, continues the narrating canine's humorous adventures with his pet human, Rover, and her family as Rover's mother becomes pregnant. When Baby Howler (named for its noises) arrives, it steals the family's focus from the dog, who responds by having some puppies of his own—and regaining the spotlight. (Bloomsbury, $15.95 32p ages 4-8 ISBN 1-58234-851-0; May)

Layton's prehistoric pair from Oscar and Arabella returns in Hot Hot Hot, as the long Ice Age winter gives way to a blisteringly unpleasant summer, when insects and rising temperatures plague them. A pair of scissors ultimately saves the overheated duo, as they shear themselves and their other hirsute pals, taking to the beach to play volleyball and lounge in the sun. (Candlewick, $15.99 32p ages 4-8 ISBN 0-7636-2148-X; May)

Conflict resolution seems the theme of You Read to Me, I'll Read to You: Very Short Fairy Tales to Read Together by Mary Ann Hoberman, illus. by Michael Emberley. As with this duo's first collaboration, the tales take the form of a conversation between a pair of characters (such as the princess and the pea or Jack and the ogre atop the beanstalk), allowing the stories to be read aloud by two people. As the characters quibble over plot points, they ultimately come to terms, in each case deciding, "You'll read to me!/ I'll read to you!" (Little, Brown, $16.95 32p ages 4-up ISBN 0-316-14611-0; May)

In their latest fiendish take on a maligned species, Snakes! by David T. Greenberg, illus. by Lynn Munsinger, slithery reptiles take center stage. An otherwise brave main character and his puppy find their home terrorized by "[a] hundred thousand salivating snakes!" The tone moves from ominous to playful: "Snakes as playground swings/ Snakes as teething rings." But even after he has seemingly conquered his fear, one final twist (or constriction, more precisely) awaits the boy. (Little, Brown, $15.95 32p ages 6-9 ISBN 0-316-32076-5; May)

Cities and Civilization

New titles examine different aspects of history and progress. Readers travel back over 500 million years in On This Spot: An Expedition Back Through Time by Susan Goodman, illus. by Lee Christiansen. Beginning on the streets of modern Manhattan, the book takes readers through the island's history, first a few centuries at a time, then across million-year leaps through the Ice Age and the dinosaurs' reign, to a time before sentient life existed. Full-bleed pastel spreads chart the significant changes in habitation and landscape across the millennia. (HarperCollins/Greenwillow, $15.99 32p ages 5-up ISBN 0-688-16913-9; Apr.)

Readers can delve into Life in a Medieval Castle by Michele Piumini, illus. by Cristina Mesturini, die-cut into the shape of said fortress. Minibooks, sandwiched between corrugated board pages, describe the layout of the castle, the lives of the peasantry, knights and warfare, as well as famous figures such as St. George and Lancelot. A sprinkling of vocabulary terms, which include armor (cuirass, sabaton), coats of arms and weapons (mangonel, caltrops) balances cheery watercolors of rosy-cheeked peasants and nonthreatening dungeon rats. (Barron's, $8.95 40p ages 8-12 ISBN 0-7641-5751-5; Apr.)

One century after the fair itself, Meet Me in St. Louis: A Trip to the 1904 World's Fair by Robert Jackson offers a close look at all aspects of this historic event. Interspersed with often wittily captioned b&w photographs, the book examines the preparations, buildings and exhibitions from around the world. From the fantastic ("an amazing series of refrigerated butter scenes") to the tragic aspects of the fair (widespread racism), Jackson provides a thorough account of the exhibition. (HarperCollins, $17.99 144p ages 8-up ISBN 0-06-009267-X; Apr.)

Written by a lifelong Egyptologist, Curse of the Pharaohs: My Adventures with Mummies by Zahi Hawass delineates and attempts to debunk the alleged curses attached to the entering of the pharaohs' tombs. Hawass has had mysterious experiences of his own, in connection with their excavation—the deaths of three of his relatives each coincided with his transporting artifacts from tombs to a museum. Still, he claims, "The dearest wish of the ancient Egyptian was to have his or her name live forever. Tutankhamun... would likely be grateful rather than angry that his tomb was discovered." (National Geographic, $19.95 144p ISBN 0-7922-6665-X; May)

Incorporating photos, timelines and illustrations, the paper-over-board Great Cities Through the Ages series adds two titles that explore key European sites. In Italy's Venice by Renzo Rossi, readers travel from the city's settlement in the fourth century through the reign of the doges (chief magistrates) to the present day, along the way learning about such traditions as "Carnevale," held each winter since the 11th century. First a Roman settlement, later the capital of the British empire, London by Neil Morris examines the town on the Thames, with sections on "Medieval London" and "London at War," as well as spreads on the monarchy, transportation, architecture and more. (Enchanted Lion [FSG, dist.], $18.95 each 44p ISBN 1-59270-014-4; -013-6; Apr.)

The Illustrated History of the World: From the Big Bang to the Third Millennium by Neil Morris and others compiles a wealth of information about the history of humankind. After briefly detailing the evolution of life on Earth, the authors explore the concurrent settlements, languages and cultural traditions of peoples around the world. Sections such as "Celtic Europe" and "Decolonization of Africa" cover such topics as medicine, politics, war and the arts. Sidebars, timelines and well-captioned illustrations add to the informative text. (Enchanted Lion [FSG, dist.], $29.95 288p ISBN 1-59270-019-5; Apr.)