Bible Stories on Board

Early learning concepts pair up with faith-based values in the new Ark Angels series of lift-the-flap board books. The first four titles in the line, Patterns and Praying; Shapes and Sharing; Colors and Caring and Opposites and Offerings by David Mead, illus. by Brian Byers, star a cast of kickily-hued stuffed animals (the Ark Angels) with names like Lala, Lylie, B.B. and Elly. Via rhyming couplets, the narrator and crew of critters remind readers of God's love as they playfully interact and introduce shapes and colors to young readers.(Penton Kids [800-748-5804], $6.95 each 22p ages 3-5 ISBN 1-59125-517-1; Shapes 1-59125-518-X; Colors 1-59125-520-1; Opposites 1-59125-519-8; Apr.)

Also from Penton Kids comes the First Word Heroes series of board books by Julie Clayden, illus. by Angela Jolliffe. In a fun, limited-vocabulary style (that may remind some of adults of the Reduced Shakespeare Company productions), children discover key information about Daniel; David; Jonah; and Noah. The entire story of David and Goliath is condensed to: "David/ Goliath/ shout/ stop/ find/ stone/ aim/ throw/ splat/ fall/ winner/ hooray!" A slightly longer version appears in a few paragraphs on the final spread, with references included encouraging readers to look up the entire Bible story on their own. Jolliffe's bright and bouncy scenes and vibrant color scheme are a highlight. (Penton Kids, $5.95 each 16p ages 1-4 ISBN 1-904637-10-8; David 1-904637-09-4; Jonah 1-904637-12-4; Noah 1-904637-11-6; Apr.)

Buddy System

Jean Marzollo continues her series of clever and thorough Bible-story picture books with Ruth and Naomi. Retold as a concise blend of history, humor and tenderness, the tale of the two titular widows (mother-in-law and daughter-in-law), who forge a stronger friendship as they relocate to Bethlehem, has an inviting tone and zippy pacing. The artwork, a mix of watercolor and thick-lined black Chinese ink, conveys both a playful and gentle mood. (Little, Brown, $15.99 32p ages 4-8 ISBN 0-316-74139-6; Apr.)