New books for kids promise to please with nature, adventure, and tender lessons

Bunny Sees, Duckling Sees, and Little Goat Sees, written and illustrated by Hargrave Hands, inaugurate a beautifully illustrated new series of nature books for the very young. Two more books in the series, Little Goat Sees and Puppy Sees, will be available this fall (Grosset & Dunlap, $2.95 each, up to age 3). A young boy fills his jar with hundreds of fireflies in July Brinckleo's Fireflies (Macmillan, $11.95, ages 5 to 8). But as their light grows dimmer, he must decide whether to keep the fireflies or set them free. Charcoal and watercolor drawings capture these elusive summer beetles.

Delores and Faye (Bradbury Press, $12.95, ages 4 to 7), written and illustrated by Barbara Samuels, catches two young sisters in amusing everyday situations. Pen and wash drawings accent the humor.

Sophie receives two presents -- a striped bathing suit and a yellow bucket with pale blue stars -- in Sophie's Bucket (Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, $13, ages 1 to 5). Catherine Stock conveys through delicate watercolors the quiet excitement of a little girl on her first visit to the seashore.

One Woolly Wombat (Kane/Miller, $8.95, ages 3 to 6), originally published in Australia, is a stunning and unusual counting book written by Rod Trinca and Kerry Argent. Argent's exquisite illustrations, complemented by the wry, rhythmic text, result in a book of award-winning quality.

Charcoal drawings evoke Martha's Vineyard in the 1830s, the scene of Carol Carrick's Stay Away From Simon (Clarion Books, $10.95, ages 7 to 10). Like her peers, Lucy, a young girl, is afraid of Simon, a slow-paced boy who hangs around school. But after Simon saves Lucy and her brother during a blizzard, Lucy takes the time to learn more about Simon and to value his remarkable friendship.

In Cracker Jackson (Viking/Penquin, $11.95, ages 10 to 14), Betsy Byars deals compassionately with an issue of adult conflict that is of great concern to young children: the abuse of a wife by her husband. By telling the story through the eyes of 11-year-old Cracker, Byars handles the more disturbing aspects of the problem tactfully, without playing down its seriousness.

The War of Independence from England is of no concern to the people of Okracoke, on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, in George Midgett's War (Scribner's, $12.95, ages 10 to 13), by Sally Edwards. But the murder of an innocent old woman spurs the islanders to decisive action. George and his father help defeat the British without going into battle. Based on a true story.

In Kentucky Daughter (Clarion Books, $12.95, ages 11 and up), by Carol J. Scott, a girl named Mary Fred Pratley learns to value her Kentucky hills heritage as well as attain the goals she has set for herself. An impressive debut for a young-adult novel.

In Betty Levin's Put on My Crown (Lodestar, 192 pp., $12.95, 12 and up), Vinnie, a nurse to two young children sailing across the Atlantic, must outwit possessive island inhabitants after their boat is shipwrecked. Levin unforgettably portrays a young girl's fierce determination to escape her captors.

Lisa Lane holds an advanced degree in library science and is at work on another in children's literature.

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