Bison in a book draws pre-schoolers, Young Domestic Animals; Domestic Amimals; Young Animals in the Zoo; Zoo Animals; A visit to a Pond. Chicago: Imported Publications Inc., (320 West Ohio Street, 60610.) (Pages unnumbered.) $ 2. (board books). Infant-age 3., Who; What; Where; When. All by Leo Lionni. New York; Pantheon Books. $3.95 (board books). Ages 1-3.
During his sedentary first six months, our Beginning Reader's literary tastes were pretty indiscriminate. Now that he's careening into the explorarory 10th month, however, his tastes have developed a more demanding edge. The books that hold his attention these days have to tell a captivating story at first glance.
At the top of his stack of favorites is a collection of pictures books produced in East Germany and imported by a Chicago firm. Each board book has 11 photographs of domestic or zoo animals and parents who don't know a Moscovy duck from a black swan can flip to the reference guide on the back cover for help. There's a playful often startled innocence in these photographs of baby bison and penguins that brings shrieks of recoginazition from Beginning Reader. Not all the animals lend themselves to accompaning sound effects, but their collective horns and fuzzy ears have the making of some tall tales.
In contrast to these realistic, easy-to-identify photographs, Leo Lionni's "Who," "What," "Where," "When" books have an abstract subtlety that aims for a giggle or two, but falls flat. The pair of blotchy grey mice who pick fabricated spring flowers look like scraps from an arts-and-crafts project, and their antics are forced instead of funny.