Time to Play

The pages of a host of new titles encourage interactive play. A fuzzy yellow binkie billows from the sturdy spreads of My Blankie: A Book to Touch and Feel by Patricia Ryan Lampl, illus. by Valeria Petrone, as it takes the form of handkerchief, scarf, dance floor and more. (Little Simon, $8.99 16p ages 1-4 ISBN 0-689-85589-3; May)

It's bedtime but the girl narrator of the paper-over-board No Bed Without Ted by Nicola Smee must search for her Teddy bear in the cupboard, under the table and finally on the clothesline; readers help in the hunt by lifting flaps and folding over half-pages. (Bloomsbury, $14.95 24p ages 3-7 ISBN 1-58234-963-0; May)

A giraffe bursts from a crate, a lion from a cage and a snake from a basket in Dear Zoo: A Pop-up Book by Rod Campbell, a companion to Dear Santa. Readers flip open various containers to find the exotic animals within. (Little Simon, $12.95 20p ages 2-5 ISBN 0-689-87751-X; Apr.)

Two oversize John Deere board books with more than 55 flaps offer plenty of activity for fans of trucks and tractors: Busy Days in Deerfield Valley by Devra Newberger Speregen, illus. by Bob Wakelin; and Welcome to Merriweather Farm by Susan Knopf, illus. by Curt Walstead. The first follows Danny Dozer and Eddie Excavator on various missions to help their community; the second spotlights Johnny Tractor and Corey Combine as they help with farm chores. Flaps galore show the before-and-after of their tasks. (Running Press/Parachute, $11.95 each 10p ages 3-7 ISBN 0-7624-2343-9; 0-7624-2342-0; May)

Singers can lift their voices to merry tunes thanks to Children's Songbag by Paul Dubois Jacobs and Jennifer Swender. The spiral-bound book boasts 50 songs to sing, including "America the Beautiful," "I've Been Working on the Railroad," "The Muffin Man" and other highly recognizable ditties. Recipes, history lessons and melody lines abound. (Gibbs Smith, $12.95 112p ages 10-up ISBN 1-58685-356-2; May)

All Aboard!

A host of spring board books introduce concepts to youngest book lovers. My Very First Book of Shapes by Eric Carle makes an ideal board book format for the 1974 picture book, using die-cut pages to match black-on-white shapes with full-color collage images of everyday objects; a black "dome" goes with a ladybug, for instance. (Philomel, $5.99 10p ages 1-up ISBN 0-399-24387-9; May)

Two die-cut board books by Sara Anderson highlight the colorful sounds of an urban environment in Noisy City Day and Noisy City Night. Her largely geometric shapes in cut-paper collage highlight the boxy height of skyscrapers as well as the triangular patterns on a bridge. From a dog's "woof-woof on the roof" of an apartment building in the daytime to the nighttime "squealing banging/ clang clang clanging!" of the fire trucks' alarm, Anderson's onomatopoeic text and electric palette bring the city to life. (Handprint [Chronicle, dist.], $7.95 each 12p ages 2-5 ISBN 1-59354-054-X; 1-59354-055-8; May)

Two toddler favorites get their due in a pair of board books by Leslie Patricelli: Binky and Blankie. Bold black outlines and rounded shapes give the pages a reassuring air, even as the toddler hero searches in vain for the title binky, or enumerates all the things one can do with a blankie (including playing superhero). Thick brushstrokes in bright colors provide an alluring backdrop. (Candlewick, $6.99 each 24p ages 1-3 ISBN 0-7636-2364-4; 0-7636-2363-6; May)

A quintet of handsize board books in the Learning with Animals series by Mélanie Watt teach The Alphabet; Numbers; Opposites; Colors and Shapes. Wild animals from alligator to zebra showcase the 26 letters in capital and lower case, with a small framed illustration of the featured critter; orange tigers and blue macaws number among the tropical creatures that demonstrate colors; and circular puffer fish and oval crabs teach shapes in an ocean setting. (Kids Can, $4.95 each 24-30pp ISBN 1-55337-829-6; Numbers 1-55337-831-8; Opposites 1-55337-832-6; Colors 1-55337-830-X; Shapes 1-55337-833-4; Apr.)

A pair of board books by Cliff Wright feature a white and a black bear cub whose tussles teach simple concepts and vocabulary words: Bear and Kite; and Bear and Ball. In the first, for instance, the duo gets tangled up in the kite string and end up in a tussle ("Play and fight," reads the text), but they work out their differences in time to snuggle up for the night. Ink and watercolor illustrations framed in a generous cream-colored border give the titles a sweetly nostalgic feel. (Chronicle, $5.95 each ages 6 mos.-4 yrs. ISBN 0-8118-4820-5; 0-8118-4819-1; Apr.)

A picture-book favorite returns as an oversize board book just right for lap reading: The Napping House by Audrey Wood, illus. by Don Wood. The misty blue artwork that chronicles the "dreaming child," "snoring granny" and a number of additional snoozers seems to bleed off the pages with their rounded corners, until that "wakeful flea" disrupts the sleepers and the sunny colors signal the end of naptime. (Harcourt/Red Wagon, $9.95 32p ages 6 mos.-3 yrs. (ISBN 0-15-205620-3; Apr.)