From a child's perspective. A selection of fun stories for beginning readers
Sing, sing, what shall we sing? A song to delight your ear. Sing, sing, how shall we sing? With a sound that is loud and clear. Author Arnold Lobel sings for us as never before in Whiskers and Rhymes. The rhymes are funny, caring, silly, and wise -- all highly imaginative and not one like another. Playing merrily upon nursery rhymes, he creates a superb collection of new jingles, some spoofing: ``Sing a song of succotash/a bucketful of noses. And here is one for each of you/To help you smell the roses.'' Some are wise and allegorical: ``Two brothers are we/Two gloomy men/Our clock has lost its chime./We o ught to wind it up again,/But we can't find the time.'' And others simply, bravely silly: ``Although he didn't like the taste,/George brushed his teeth with pickle paste./Not ever was his mouth so clean,/Not ever were his teeth so green.'' All are happily childlike, and with Lobel's inimitable illustrations, the whole is inspired, fresh, abounding in the unexpected, and exceedingly good to grow on. (Greenwillow, $13.)Skip to next paragraph
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In The Relatives Came, by Cynthia Rylant, they come -- and they fill in. They fill the house with their hugging, the yard with their music, the beds with all their breathing, full to overflowing. But what's ours is yours, and there is ample -- ample watermelon and peas, and berries aplenty to go around; ample laughter and goodwill; and if there aren't enough beds, no matter, the relatives aren't particular about beds.
When the relatives come, they stay. They help in the garden, mend the fences (of their own breaking), fiddle, give haircuts. And as we turn the pages we feel the ease of their growing together, their settling in.
Everyone is busy, busy, ``hugging and eating and breathing together,'' and we are not surprised to find ourselves suddenly in the midst of it too, pulled in by Rylant's wry, warm touches and the fun that illustrator Stephen Gammell has in his drawing. Gammell expands freely upon the telling, drawing his world with a measure of abandon and a full helping of humor, all in full color. It is a soulful, funny world of backyard haircuts, stray socks, spills, rumpled clothes, and beaming faces -- a world of do wn-home joys to equal the love of Rylant's story. Fun like this shouldn't be missed. (Bradbury, $12.95.)
Rosy will be Rosy will be Rosy, the irrepressible maverick ever scheming herself into impossible binds. Following ``Give Us a Great Big Smile, Rosy Cole'' and ``Valentine Rosy'' (Atlantic-Little, Brown), we have Rosy Cole's Great American Guilt Club, in which Rosy again sees that she is Rosy -- just Rosy. Without the things that make one someone -- Cippy jeans, a pineapple shirt, a ski house -- Rosy decides she is no one and has nothing.
But Rosy is not to be undone. She founds the ``Great American Guilt Club,'' where the ``haves'' can unburden themselves of their guilt (and their Cippy jeans and pineapple shirts) on the ``have-nots.'' Cleverly, however, Greenwald's irony shows the tables quickly turning: At the club's first meeting, it is Rosy's baggy jeans, hand-me-down shirts, and very lived-in living room that is coveted -- her whole easy, comfy life -- right down to the generic apple juice.
Greenwald's wit precisely captures the ridiculous, making light of everything from the absurdity of material values, to Rosy's father -- who says, ``Take a long look at yourself, Rose'' -- even to the school that dictates uniforms so the students will ``value human character over superficial material things.'' That first rush of pre-teen Angst is here in full. We laugh, for here is more than a grain of truth, and with the laughter comes perspective, space for young readers to think for themselves. (Atlantic Monthly Press, $11.95.)
Johanna Hurwitz has the five-year-old's world in perfect focus in her new collection of Russell stories, Russell Rides Again. Here we have a cranky Russell, a bossy-on-his-birthday Russell, an oversoaked Russell long forgotten in the bath, a frightened Russell learning to ride his bike, and a mischievous Russell playing a trick on his new teacher. Through it all the child's perspective comes fully to the fore. Hurwitz's unusual empathy and the humor and affection underlying her telling make these vignettes of everyday childhood a success with young readers. Especially well suited for reading aloud in the younger grades. (William Morrow, $10.25.)