For toddlers and young children. Entertaining introductions to the world of numbers

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Ten Little Babies Eat, Ten Little Babies Play, Ten Little Babies Count, and Ten Little Babies Dress, by Janet Martin. Photographs by Michael Watson. New York: St. Martin's Press. $3.95 each. (18 to 36 months.) Babies from about 18 months to two years will be delighted with this new series, which really is for babies! They're all written to the old familiar tune, ``One little, two little, three little . . . .'' In ``Play,'' we see toddlers of all shapes and sizes interacting with play phones, bats, and balls; in ``Count,'' being entranced with brightly colored balloons; in ``Eat,'' eating long-stemmed carrots, cookies, apples, and cheese; and in ``Dress,'' donning the ever-familiar diaperplus-T-shirt, socks, tennies, and playsuits.

These books are just the right size for babies to hold and are made of high gloss, very sturdy cardboard. The author and photographer cleverly manage to capture their adorable subjects in thematically controlled yet spontaneous interaction with objects familiar to babies. Who's Counting?, by Nancy Tafuri. New York: Greenwillow Books. 24 pp. $11.75. (Ages 2-6.)

From beginning pawprint (inside front cover) to ending pawprint (inside back cover), children between the ages of 2 and 6 will learn numbers while they eagerly follow a most curious puppy through field and barnyard to his surprising final destination. Bright, simple, and beautifully rendered illustrations entreat us to take this nature trek, where we meet a squirrel, two birds, three underground moles, four geese, and so on.

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Adding to this book's spirit of adventure is the hide-and-seek element on each page as the reader hunts to find some part of the puppy (a nose, a tail, or a paw) that is constantly into something. Joining the puppy in digging for a mole, running from perturbed geese, or blowing bubbles on tadpoles, young counters will find themselves immediately caught up in a compelling learning game. Counting Wildflowers, by Bruce McMillan. New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shephard Books. 32 pp. $11.75. (Ages 3-6.)

This beautiful ``photographic concept'' book will easily foster in young children a love of what's free and beautiful in nature. Each page reveals an exquisitely presented wildflower in its natural habitat (whether thicket, field, backyard, or vacant lot), and the photography gives the feeling that the flowers could be instantly grasped and pleasurably held under one's nose!

At the bottom of each page, the number of flowers to be counted is represented by a matching number of shaded-in circles that are the same color as the flower being counted. Counting from one to 20 through the pages is a nature experience that brings the best outdoor botanical blooms indoors. Up to Ten and Down Again, by Lisa Campbell Ernst. New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shephard Books. 32 pp. $10.25. (Ages 2-4.)

This book is one of the very best counting books in quite a while. It is book illustration at its finest and a treasure chest of action throughout. While it is essentially wordless, the book's scrapbook-style pictures will prompt plenty of verbal exchange. Objects such as balls, boats, and baskets are all seen in a context of action and interaction -- they're never static.

Young and old alike love a picnic, and so we watch as three dogs, four boys, five girls, and various moms and dads ``unpack'' their goods, one to 10, in the idyllic lakeside home of several frogs, squirrels -- and one duck. The reader, too, gets drawn into the picnic merriment with its toy boat sailing, ball tossing, sumptuous meal (the dogs definitely get their share), and puppy naps. There is also hat donning, ring-around-the-rosie, and clouds.

Clouds! Nine hats swoosh off in the stormy wind, while baskets are hurriedly -- and sadly -- packed, and the reader counts down to the rhythm of raindrops. Not only will the readers of this book eagerly count up to 10 and down again, they'll do it -- as the book's cover itself promises -- ``again, and again, and again.'' There's a Monster Under My Bed, by James Howe. Illustrations by David Rose. New York: Atheneum. $11.95. (Ages 5-8.)

Written for a more mature reader, this book offers a much different counting context. Although there are many children's books written with this nighttime theme in mind, James Howe provides a new slant by letting sibling, not parental, love be the modus operandi of overcoming fear. And David Rose's crayon-pastel-like illustrations successfully bridge the real and make-believe, giving the readers two brothers they will want to adopt, and monsters they will want to -- touch? Yes!

On Simon's first ``grown-up'' night without a night light, he is sure there must be a monster under his bed because he forgot to check. Playing sort of a point game with himself, he argues back and forth until -- ``pop!'' -- he feels his mattress jump. Simon proceeds to imagine the scariest (yet quite cuddly) monsters -- two blue hairy ones, three purple slimy ones, and more, until Simon is convinced he is going to be monster's midnight snack!

But then he sees the flashlight his Mom left by his bed ``just in case.'' When he courageously shines it under his bed he does find a real-life everyday monster -- his baby brother Alex. The ensuing love and tenderness expressed by the two brothers as they address what is often to children a very real nighttime fear, makes for memorable reading.

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