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How the Young-in-Heart Share Wonder

From imaginative ways to teach the alphabet to exploring foreign lands and sci-fi fantasy worlds, Christmas gift books for children are full of delight and adventure.

By Karen Williams. Karen Williamswho reviews children's books for the Monitor, has a master's degree in children's literature. / December 8, 1995



JEREMY KOOLOO

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Written and illustrated

By Tim Mahurin

Dutton, unpaged, $13.99

Ages 2 to 5

ALPHABET CITY

Conceived and illustrated

By Stephen T. Johnson

Viking, unpaged, $14.99

All ages

HOW SWEET THE SOUND: AFRICAN-AMERICAN SONGS FOR CHILDREN

Selected by Wade

and Cheryl Hudson

Illustrated by Floyd Cooper

Scholastic

48 pp., $15.95

Ages 3 to 8

WYNKEN, BLYNKEN & NOD

By Eugene Field

Illustrated by Johanna Westerman

North-South Books

Unpaged, $15.95

Ages 3 to 6

TWIST WITH A BURGER, JITTER WITH A BUG

By Linda Lowery

Illustrated by Pat Dypold

Houghton Mifflin Co.

Unpaged, $14.95

Ages 4 to 7

THE MOUSE BRIDE

By Joy Cowley

Illustrated by David Christiana

Scholastic

Unpaged, $13.95

Ages 3 to 7

KASHTANKA

By Anton Chekhov

Translated by Ronald Meyer

Illustrated by Gennady Spirin

Gulliver/Harcourt Brace, Unpaged, $16

Ages 8 and up

THE SCHOOL MOUSE

By Dick King-Smith

Illustrated by Cynthia Fisher

Hyperion, 124 pp., $13.95

Ages 7 to 10

DINOTOPIA: THE WORLD BENEATH

Written and illustrated

By James Gurney

Turner Publishing

160 pp., $29.95

All ages

THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS

By Kenneth Grahame

Illustrated by Patrick Benson

St. Martin's Press

272 pp., $18.95

All ages

A CHRISTMAS CAROL

By Charles Dickens

Illustrated by Roberto Innocenti

Creative Editions/Harcourt Brace, 152 pp., $35

Adult/All ages

CHILDREN'S BOOKS AND THEIR CREATORS

Edited by Anita Silvey

Illustrated by various artists

Houghton Mifflin Co.

800 pp., $40

Adult/All ages

THE SECRET ART OF DR. SEUSS

Paintings and sculptures

By Theodor Seuss Geisel

Introduction by Maurice Sendak

Random House, unpaged, $30

Adult/All ages

At holiday time many of us turn to traditions that kindle the warmth of holidays past. The book industry is no exception. Many old favorites have been reissued in time for Hanukkah and Christmas. Here is a selection of some familiar books along with a few fresh titles - all vying for a place on your holiday gift list.

Alphabet Books

Books that teach a concept - such as the alphabet - can be traced back hundreds of years. These two new ones seem destined to become favorites.

Jeremy Kooloo, by Tim Mahurin, is a sweet, simple tale of a fuzzy white cat whose thirst for milk causes quite a mess. The words in this story start with the successive letters of the alphabet: ''A Big Cat Drank Every Full Glass.''

And does this artist know cats! Expressions and postures are genuine and amusing. Double-page spreads allow the cat to have almost life-size proportions, and make this charming book positively huggable.

Urban dwellers can't help but experience a flicker of recognition when looking at Alphabet City, by Stephen T. Johnson. In paintings so realistic they sometimes look like photographs, Johnson depicts each letter of the alphabet in urban or architectural settings.

For example, ''A'' is the end of the construction site's sawhorse, and ''Z'' is found in the zigzag of a fire escape. This book is a visual treat. And perhaps more important, it awakens the spirit of discovery and imagination in readers.

Song and Poetry

Glorious illustrations by Floyd Cooper and a fine selection of songs by compilers Wade and Cheryl Hudson make How Sweet the Sound: African-American Songs for Children a real picture-book treasure. Written as a companion volume to ''Pass It On: African-American Poetry for Children,'' this new work gives illustrated life to many songs from black culture: spirituals, chants, freedom songs, and jazz. It includes historical notes and music in the back of the book, making this a valuable resource, as well as a beautifully designed book.

More than 100 years ago, Eugene Field wrote his famous bedtime poem, Wynken, Blynken & Nod. Its soothing rhythms and rhymes are still pleasing sleepy children, and this season, Johanna Westerman's dreamy new illustrations provide extra appeal. Using a palette of mostly midnight blues and sea greens, Westerman liberally sprinkles slivery stars and fish into her illustrations.

Three children - all in nightclothes - sail their wooden shoe across the evening skies and then, when the journey is done, drop anchor on their own home's roof and climb into their trundle bed. A curious little black and white cat, visible in almost every picture, adds whimsy to this satisfying bedtime book.

Picture Books

Twist With a Burger, Jitter With a Bug - Linda Lowery's bouncy, rhyming celebration of dance - is sure to bring smiles and wiggles to youngsters. What kid can resist lines such as ''Boogie in the bathtub, hula-hula dance, rumba if you wanna in your underpants''? Pat Dypold's bright, cut-paper collage illustrations add irresistible exuberance to this imaginative book.