On the Boards

New and repackaged titles are available in sturdy board book format. Die-cut into tool shapes, four titles should entice future carpenters and mechanics. Popular Mechanics for Kids: Who Uses a Drill?, illus. by Nancy Davis, answers the titular question by using bright simple shapes to show different people hard at work ("A carpenter building a table. Whirl, whirl, whirl!"). The other titles are Who Uses a Hammer?, Who Uses a Wrench? and Who Uses a Saw?(Sterling/Hearst, $4.95 each 10p ages 1-3 ISBN 0-58816-370-9; -371-7; -372-5; -373-3; May)

Elaborately die-cut in the shape of a toddler standing bravely in his firefighter regalia, the paper-over-foamboard Fireman's Safety Hints by Giovanni Caviezel, illus. by Cristina Mesturini, features a pair of toddlers learning how to be safe in a variety of situations, including fires, earthquakes, gas explosions, tornadoes and floods. Mesturini's cartoon illustrations keep things mild, especially because "disaster" scenes appear on a projection screen, keeping the kids safely outside the danger depicted. (Barron's, $9.95 10p ages 10 mos.-up ISBN 0-7641-5757-4; May)

"Hey listen! What's that sound?" So begins a pair of titles exploring the sounds of urban and rural locales. What's That Sound? In the City by Sheryl McFarlane, illus. by Kim LaFave, features rhymed noises of a bustling downtown: "Down at the deli, dishes go crash/ Slurping milkshakes, ringing up the cash." The sounds found in the duo's What's That Sound? On the Farm are equally spirited. LaFave's cartoon illustrations utilize inventive perspectives and suggestive details, such as the soft shadow of towering buildings cast over children at recess. (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, $7.95 each 18p ages 1-3 ISBN 1-55041-812-2; -814-9; June)

Amy Wilson Sanger brings A Little Bit of Soul Food to the table, in an addition to World Snacks series. Full-bleed photos of 3-D paper food creations rest on quilted fabric backdrops (a heap of fried chicken and pot full of collard greens are especially convincing). On the final spread, a cross-stitch sampler shares grandmotherly wisdom: "Soul is good for you, just use a little lard. It's okay if we get messy when we're eating in the yard!" (Tricycle, $6.95 20p ages 1-3 ISBN 0-58246-109-0; June)

Marcus Pfister enlists his famous fish in two concept books. Numbers in Rainbow Fish Counting progress from one crab to 10 fish, but, as the last page reminds readers, there is "only one glittering Rainbow Fish!" In Rainbow Fish Colors , sea creatures from a "purple octopus" to a "grey dolphin" teach basic hues. (North-South, $4.99 each 24p ages 1-4 ISBN 0-7358-1653-0; -1930-0; Apr.)

Now in board book, Keiko Kasza's 1990 picture book When the Elephant Walks describes a chain reaction setting in as animals inadvertently terrifying one another. PW's review noted, "Kasza fills her pictures with amusing details that children will appreciate along with the simple story." (Putnam, $6.99 32p ages 1-up ISBN 0-399-24261-9; May)

Tomie dePaola'sBook of Poems (1988) is reconceived in board book form in Tomie's Little Book of Poems. PW called the original compilation "thoughtfully compiled and organized" and praised the illustrations, rendered in the artist's signature style.(Putnam, $7.99 36p ages 1-3 ISBN 0-399-24270-8; May)

Karen Baicker and Sam Williams's 2002 Tumble Me Tumbily, as PW noted in a starred review, was "invitingly" designed to resemble a play in three acts. Now each "act" receives its own board book treatment. Wake-ity Wake! covers the young protagonist's initial tumbling with his animal friends. Yum Tummy Tickly! relates the adventures of mealtime and in Snuggle Me Snuggly! the boy prepares for bed. (Handprint [Chronicle, dist.], $6.95 each 12p ages 6 mos.-3 yrs. ISBN 1-59354-036-1; -037-X; -038-8; May)

New Titles, New Friends

New picture books look to captivate open minds. Elaine Greenstein offers two cyclical tales for youngest readers. One Little Seed understatedly depicts a seed's growth from initial planting ("One little seed/ Dropped in a hole") through its development and eventual blossoming as a bright sunflower. Folk-influenced, full-bleed watercolors balance facing pages where brief lyrical phrases and small circular insets float on white space. One Little Lamb applies this formula to a rural setting where a lamb's wool is sheared, carded and spun; a girl uses the wool to knit "two little mittens I wear on my hands," which she wears when visiting the flock. (Viking, $10.99 each 32p ages 1-up ISBN 0-670-03633-1; -03683-8; May)

The Story of Red Rubber Ball by Constance Levy, illus. by Hiroe Nakata, expands on a poem of Levy's that poem that appeared in her 1991 I'm Going to Pet a Worm Today. Different creatures interact with a ball (ostensibly lost by a boy who despondently sits on his stoop in the opening spread), but none can find a use for it. In Nakata's watercolors, each animal shows up in the illustration that precedes its moment in the spotlight; tiny background details, unrelated to the overall story, should pique children's imaginations as well. (Harcourt/Silver Whistle, $16 32p ages 2-5 ISBN 0-15-216589-4; May)

Construction Countdown by K.C. Olson, illus. by David Gordon, is the author's first book, a rhymed counting book that looks at construction vehicles hard at work, beginning with 10 and working down to one clever, surprising twist: "Two skid loaders, with lots of loads to haul/ and one gigantic sandbox with room to drive them all!" Gordon's fantastic, digitally created illustrations imbue the scenes with gritty and dramatic realism. (Holt, $14.95 24p ages 3-6 ISBN 0-8050-6920-8; May)

Jane Dyer brings her tender touch to a bedtime book by Ruth Krauss in Goodnight Goodnight Sleepyhead, which pairs text from Krauss's 1964 Eyes Nose Fingers Toes with Dyer's characteristically affectionate watercolors of a toddler and ever-patient mother. A "Baby Sleeping" door hanger is included. (HarperCollins, $15.99 32p ages 3-6 ISBN 0-06-028894-9; May)

A sleepy boy tries out different animal habitats in Whose House? by Barbara Seuling, illus. by Kay Chorao. Rhymed stanzas describe the animals' activities: "A thousand bees with a queen to please/ work in a maze/ of hive passageways./ It's fine for bees…/ but not for me!," with the last line becoming a refrain of sorts. Chorao's illustrations run to such humorous images as a newspaper-reading frog frowning at the boy's intrusion upon his log and an predatory owl wearing a polka-dotted bib as he chases his prey. (Harcourt/ Gulliver, $16 32p ages 3-7 ISBN 0-15-216347-6; May)

I Like Myself! by Karen Beaumont (Baby Danced the Polka), illus. by David Catrow, is a breezy affirmation of self. The rhymes can be goofy ("I'd still like me with fleas or warts,/ or with a silly snout that snorts"), but even when they are straightforward, as they are in the beginning ("I like me on the inside too/, for all I think and say and do"). Catrow's (Plantzilla) typically zany illustrations up-end them (for the "I like me on the inside" verse, he shows the narrator and her horrified dog in X-ray mode). (Harcourt, $16 32p ages 3-7 ISBN 0-15-202013-6; May)

Available in separate English and Spanish editions, The Kite Festival/El festival de cometas by Leyla Torres (Saturday Sancocho) recounts a family's chance Sunday outing to a town celebrating its annual kite festival. Arriving in San Vicente without a kite, Fernando and his grandfather must improvise and use a collection of unusual items to make one themselves. Soft, full-bleed watercolors capture the family working together as well as the atmosphere of the festival. (FSG, $16 each 32p ages 4-8 ISBN 0-374-38054-6; -32299-6; May)

Touching paintings of a girl and her father accompany the poetry of Give Her the River: A Father's Wish for His Daughter by Michael Dennis Browne, illus. by Wendell Minor. The poem relates the narrator's desire to impart every aspect of the river to his progeny: "Give her the way the willows lean, how they sway in the green of their dreams." (S&S/Atheneum, $15.95 40p ages 4-8 ISBN 0-689-84326-7; May)

Native American Culture

New titles give informed views of talented Native American figures. Jim Thorpe's Bright Path by Joseph Bruchac, illus. by S.D. Nelson, is a historical picture-book portrayal of the legendary Olympian and all-American athlete. Bouncing between boarding schools, young Jim never finds academics as compelling as sports. Yet despite the deaths of his twin brother, mother and father over an eight-year period, Thorpe thrives at Carlisle Indian School, his feats there just the beginning of a life filled with athletic success. An author's note and timeline highlight important events in Thorpe's adulthood. (Lee & Low, $17.95 40p ages 6-up ISBN 1-58430-166-X; May)

Directed to an adult audience, the abundantly illustrated Native American Picture Books of Change: The Art of Historic Children's Editions by Rebecca Benes examines the earliest Native American children's books, many commissioned by the Bureau for Indian Affairs to create educational primers and books that reflected Native traditions. Benes discusses the development of the distinctly Native American aesthetic of the illustrations (done by Native artists) as well as the difficulties of converting stories that had been passed down via oral tradition into written form. (Museum of New Mexico, $45 176p ISBN 0-989013-471-5; May)

Series and Sequels

Two titles begin a new teen series by Mates, Dates, and Inflatable Bras author Cathy Hopkins. Sprinkled with Brit-teen slang, the Truth or Dare series introduces friends Cat, Becca, Squidge and Mac. In White Lies and Barefaced Truths, Cat is dared to talk to Becca's crush, famous dreamboat Ollie Axford, and she is stunned when Ollie flirts with her in the process. Is Ollie worth breaking up with Squidge over? The Princess of Pop, finds the gang trying out for the Pop Prince and Pop Princess talent competition. When self-doubting dreamer Becca is the only one of her friends to make it into the final rounds, she has to confront her fears in her quest to rule pop-dom. (Simon Pulse, $5.99 paper each 224p ages 12-up ISBN 0-689-87003-5; -87002-7; May)

Patience, Princess Catherine by Carolyn Meyer is the fourth title in the Young Royals series. Opening with the musings of the displaced Catherine of Aragon, imprisoned by her husband Henry VIII and supplanted by Anne Boleyn, the story flashes back to Catherine's betrothal and marriage first to Arthur, then to Arthur's brother Henry. Catherine's joy in finally marrying Henry stands in striking contrast to her eventual fate when she cannot produce a male heir. (Harcourt/Gulliver, $17 256p ages 12-up ISBN 0-15-216544-4; May)

Third in the paperback Zenda series, The Crystal Planet, created by Ken Petti and John Amodeo, written with Cassandra Westwood, continues Zenda's attempts to find all 13 pieces of her shattered gazing ball. Zenda and her parents visit relatives on the shimmering planet, Crystallin, and Zenda's talents help save the day when her older cousin Stella and her friends encounter a monstrous snake. (Grosset, $4.99 paper 144p ages 10-up ISBN 0-448-43255-2; May)

Daredevils by Anne Capeci, illus. by Paul Casale, is second in the Cascade Mountain Railroad Mysteries. Billy, Finn, Dannie and the others are thrilled to see an air show and meet Finn's pilot uncle. A spoiled new city boy from Chicago and a gang of bootleggers add drama to this Prohibition-era mystery; historical notes about the railroad projects of the Pacific Northwest, early aviation and the Prohibition years round it out. (Peachtree, $12.95 144p ages 7-10 ISBN 1-56145-307-2; May)

Abused racehorses and women's suffrage figure in the story lines of Thomas Kinkade and Erika Tamar's The Girls of Lighthouse Lane #2: Rose's Story, a Cape Light novel set in 1905. Rose's bloomer-wearing mother causes such scandal in Manhattan that the family moves to the small coastal town. Rose makes new friends quickly and sets out to save the horse Midnight Star. (HarperCollins/Parachute, $12.99 192p ages 10-up ISBN 0-06-054344-2; May)