Many Happy Returns

Several favorite picture books return to print. The literary equivalent of a child's giggle fit, Stoo Hample's The Silly Book (1961), originally edited by Ursula Nordstrom, was a humor reference point for countless knee-high baby boomers. Now reissued, it retains all its irony-free, Kennedy-era charms, from goofy line drawings that recall the classic animated commercials of the period to its tongue-tickling text. A boy, a girl and the Boodleheimer—a mustachioed, dog-like critter with his own "Silly Song"—star. Hample's verbal doodlings have staying power. (Candlewick, $15.99 32p all ages ISBN 0-7636-2256-7; Sept.)

New illustrations by Pierre Pratt dress up the Newbery Honor book Belling the Tiger by Mary Stolz. The witty story stars two mice chosen to "bell" (place a bell collar on) a neighborhood cat. The mice accidentally get shipped overseas, but manage to both bell and befriend a tiger. The saturated colors in Pratt's full-bleed paintings capture both the austere atmosphere of the mice's home base and the lush setting of the tiger's jungle. (Running Press, $15.95 32p ages 6-11 ISBN 0-7624-1889-3; Aug.)

Originally published in 1948, Billy's Picture by H.A. and Margret Rey, illus. by H.A. Rey, centers on an artistically inclined bunny who tries to draw a self-portrait. Billy's animal friends add their own features—quills, wings, a trunk—to his drawing, resulting in a cuddly chimera. Rey's priceless retro illustrations contrast Billy's growing dismay with his friends' excitement at contributing to the drawing. (Houghton, $15 24p ages 4-8 ISBN 0-618-49422-7; paper $5.95 ISBN 0-618-49420-0; Aug.)

New artwork also updates Part-Time Dog (1954) by Jane Thayer, illus. by Lisa McCue. Brownie, a trusting stray puppy, is the delight of Maple Street. He enjoys a bone from one neighbor, sleeps on another's couch and has coffee with a third neighbor. But not until Brownie is taken to the pound do the women realize how much they love him. (HarperCollins, $14.99 32p ages 4-8 ISBN 0-06-029693-3; Aug.)

Interactive Pleasures

Several titles this summer encourage active involvement. Charles M. Schulz's comics literally leap off the page in Peanuts: A Pop-up Celebration. The endpages feature the original comics that inspired the six 3-D tableaux within, which include Snoopy typing a story atop his fully formed doghouse and Charlie Brown as placekicker spinning through the air as Lucy pulls the football away from him. (S&S/Little Simon, $19.95 18p all ages ISBN 0-689-85453-6; Aug.)

In Morning in the Jungle by Teresa Imperato, illus. by Mercedes McDonald, pop-ups, pull-tabs, flaps and more show wild animals first awakening and later preparing for bed. Fuzzy insets enhance a lion's mane and sleeping hippos bob up and down in a river when readers turn a wheel. Imperato provides simple, rhymed stanzas: "What happens in the darkness/ of the jungle at night?/ Mama zebra tucks baby in nice and tight." (Barron's, $10.95 20p ages 3-6 ISBN 0-7641-5724-8; Aug.)

The Once Upon a Time Map Book by B.G. Hennessy, illus. by Peter Joyce, lets children visit six fictional lands, cartographically depicted, to search for hidden treasure. Peter Pan's Neverland, Dorothy's Oz and Alice's Wonderland are just three of the settings readers can explore by following detailed directions that utilize a key and compass specific to each page. (Candlewick, $11.99 16p ages 6-10 ISBN 0-7636-2521-3; Aug.)

The Moral of the Story...

New compilations feature classic rhymes, fables and folklore retold. Illustrator Helen Ward contributes pithy retellings and breathtakingly detailed watercolor-and-ink illustrations to Unwitting Wisdom: An Anthology of Aesop's Fables. The tales star the Greek's familiar cast of animals, paired with text that changes font size (for storytelling assistance). An aerial view places delectable looking grapes in the foreground as a fox gazes longingly at the unreachable fruit in "Sour Grapes." In the classic race, an enormous hare bounds through a meadow on the fable's title page; two spreads later, past beds of wildflowers, the tortoise plods to victory. (Chronicle, $17.95 64p ages 2-5 ISBN 0-8118-4450-1; Sept.)

Sing a Song of Sixpence: A Pocketful of Nursery Rhymes and Tales by Jane Chapman delivers familiar verse and stories from "Jack and Jill" to "The Three Little Pigs." And although less cheerful standbys unfold with the likes of the old woman who "scolded [her children] soundly and put them to bed" in a tenement-like shoe, the tone remains largely light-hearted, and the illustrations cartoonish and bright. (Candlewick, $15.99 64p ages 3-6 ISBN 0-7636-2545-0; Aug.)

Margaret Read MacDonald gathers riddles, scary stories, folk songs and more in Three Minute Tales: Stories from Around the World to Tell or Read When Time Is Short. A tale from China, "A Lover of Dragons," features a man who professes affection for the creatures (until he meets one) and the Mexican-American story "The Bilingual Cat" stars a feline that catches his dinner by picking up a second language ("Bow wow!"). (August House, $24.95 160p ISBN 0-87483-728-6; paper $17.95 ISBN 0-87483-729-4; Sept.)

Behind the Scenes

From galaxies far, far away to the shadowy worlds of secret agents, new titles offer the inside scoop. Fans may Force-fully clamor for Inside the Worlds ofStar WarsTrilogy: The Ultimate Guide to the Incredible Locations of Episodes (IV, V, and VI) by James Lucerno, illus. by Richard Chasemore and Hans Jensson. The latest examination of the Star Wars universe focuses on planets and habitations, from the icy Galactic Civil War battlefield of Hoth, to Jabba's Palace on Tatooine. In addition to the detailed "cutaway" illustrations, the title features an introduction with planetary details in a faux astronomy textbook—style format. (DK, $19.99 48p ISBN 0-7566-0307-2; Aug.)

Aspiring James Bonds and Charlie's Angels can spirit away an in-depth look into the origins of espionage in Spies: The Undercover World of Secrets, Gadgets and Lies by David Owen. "Code Breaking," "Fakes and Frauds" and other chapters combine with actual case studies—of covert ops, double-crosses and international networks that span from the Revolutionary War to September 11. (Firefly, $19.95 HC 128p ages 10-14 ISBN 1-55297-795-1; paper $9.95 ISBN 1-55297-794-3; Aug.)

Sturdy Studies

Candlewick launches a new line of Super Sturdy Picture Books, just right for beginning readers, with a trio of titles boasting strong cardstock pages. A toddler cuts a swathe of destruction in the Supermarket! by Charlotte Doyle, illus. by Nadine Bernard Westcott. The artist's trademark fine line and watercolor wash illustrations show an oblivious tyke lobbing beets and causing an avalanche of canned peas, as the staccato text lists each item: "Green Beans./ Ice cream./ Get in line./ Checkout time." (Candlewick, $8.99 24p ages 1-3 ISBN 0-7636-2218-4; Aug.)

Let's Play Basketball! by Charles R. Smith Jr., illus. by Terry Widener, stars a talking basketball that makes a poetic plea to its young owner for some game time. Smith's text bounces and soars like the ball narrator: "I'll turn and skip and leap and rise/ as I bounce off the sun and swish through clouds so high." Widener's acrylics create a cheery, full-bleed cartoon backdrop for the ballin' boy. (Candlewick, $8.99 24p ages 1-3 ISBN 0-7636-1691-5; Aug.)

Anthony Browne's 1989 I Like Books makes an ideal convert to the sturdy series as the monkey star enumerates all the books he enjoys. PW called it "positive and upbeat—sends a clear message, encouraging the overlapping events of imaginative play, real activities and reading." (Candlewick, $8.99 24p ages 1-3 ISBN 0-7636-2162-5; Aug.)