Ready, Set, Read
Books about a pizza parlor, a fishing trip, and baseball are among the promising new releases for a range of children.
OF the thousands of children's books published each year, only a handful, like Robert McCloskey's ``Make Way for Ducklings'' [see story on Page 9], become classics. For a book to remain in print for half a century, and more importantly, to be loved by several generations of children, calls for a rare blend of elements: a compelling story grounded in the kind of genuine emotion that transcends time and - in the case of picture books - illustrations that never lose their freshness or appeal.Skip to next paragraph
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Perhaps a few titles from this selection of outstanding new books will become classics - but only time will tell.
A talented husband-and-wife team, Don and Audrey Wood (``The Napping House,'' ``King Bidgood's in the Bathtub''), has come up with yet another winner: Piggies (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, $13.95, ages 2 to 6). This rollicking bedtime story features a pair of pudgy little hands and two fistfuls of fanciful ``piggies'' - fingers - that cavort across exuberantly illustrated pages until finally, all tuckered out from their merrymaking, they line up, kiss each other good night, and settle down to sleep.
Master illustrator Jan Brett's trademark jewel-like colors and detailed page borders have never been more arresting than in Edward Lear's classic nonsense poem, The Owl and the Pussycat (G. P. Putnam's Sons, $14.95, ages 4 to 8). Set against an exotic Caribbean backdrop, the story of the unlikely couple and their happy voyage unfolds in all the sun-drenched hues of the tropics, bringing renewed vigor to the words.
The parameters defining ``picture books'' are being stretched in intriguing ways these days, as artists experiment with different visual mediums to tell a story. Faith Ringgold, for example, uses quilts. Tar Beach (Crown, $14.95, ages 4 to 8) is based on one of her story quilts (this one is part of the permanent collection in New York's Guggenheim Museum) and tells of eight-year-old Cassie, who retreats with her family to a city rooftop (the ``tar beach'') on a hot summer night. In a move th at echoes an African-American folktale metaphor for wish-fulfillment or escape, Cassie imagines herself flying. Soaring high above the city, she wears the George Washington Bridge ``like a diamond necklace,'' her flight giving wings to her dreams and longings. Ringgold writes with simple eloquence, and her bold, vivid artwork is brilliantly conceived and executed.
Wishes can be dangerous things. When business at Frank and Zelda's pizza parlor plummets, a mysterious stranger grants them a wish. Soon, customers line the streets, demanding pizza morning, noon, and night. Pizza for Breakfast (Morrow Junior Books, $13.95, ages 5 and up), by Maryann Kovalski, serves up a cheerful, modern-day twist on the Grimm brothers' classic fairy tale, ``The Fisherman and His Wife.'' Here, Frank and Zelda discover that fame and fortune aren't everything and, in a highly satisfying conclusion, decide they are more than ready to accept happiness in a humbler form.
For Beginning Readers
Henry is worried about his coming visit to Grandma's house. Will Grandma like Mudge? Will Mudge be allowed to sleep indoors? Who will protect Henry from things that go bump in the night if Mudge sleeps outdoors? In Henry and Mudge and the Bedtime Thumps (Bradbury Press, $11.95, ages 6 to 8), Henry and his dog once again prove to be the perfect vehicle for those just graduating from picture books. Cynthia Rylant's text is lively, humorous, and precisely tuned to the beginning reader, and Su,c ie Stevenson's cartoon-like illustrations provide additional sparkle.