Choices for children. Christmas gifts for younger readers

Tomie dePaola's Mother Goose is one of the finest illustrated compilations of nursery rhymes available. Mr. dePaola, working with Iona and Peter Opie's classic version of the rhymes, has created a unified and harmonious book. Every page delights: Brilliant color and ingenious layout result in a book that will fascinate children and adults alike. (Putnam, $17.95, ages 2 and up.) Thirteen of Leo Lionni's animal fables have been collected in a new volume, Frederick's Fables: A Leo Lionni Treasury of Favorite Stories. Bold collage illustrations bring power and depth to Lionni's universally appealing stories about mice, snails, fish, and rabbits. Great for anyone with small children. (Pantheon, $16.95, ages 3 and up.)

Gabrielle Vincent's bear and mouse duo is back -- this time in Breakfast Time, Ernest and Celestine and Ernest and Celestine's Patchwork Quilt, two wordless picture books for youngsters. The plot is simple enough for toddlers to follow the action of the tale. Vincent's gentle pen-and-wash illustrations evoke the love and warmth of this unique friendship. (Greenwillow, $5.25, ages 3 to 6.)

Another mouse -- Angelina -- is also making a return appearance. Angelina's Christmas, written by Katharine Holabird and illustrated by Helen Craig, highlights a mouse-child's concern for a lonely older mouse, Mr. Bell. With the help of her mother and father, Angelina prepares a Christmas surprise for Mr. Bell, who in turn gives a present to Angelina. Helen Craig's delicately expressive illustrations are full of sympathy for someone less fortunate. (Potter, $6.95, ages 3 to 6.)

An animal community learns the joy of giving in Christmas Present From a Friend, by Yuriko Kimura. When Rabbit finds two carrots in the cold winter snow, he gives one to Donkey. But Donkey, having just finished a meal of potatoes, is no longer hungry; he gives the carrot to Sheep. Sheep, in turn, presents it to Roe Deer, who then gives the carrot to Rabbit. Unusual, muted illustrations by Masako Matsumura delineate the quiet selflessness of each animal. (Abingdon Press, $10.95, ages 3 and up .)

Whimsical bears, industrious pigs, squawking hens, and foolish people dance across the pages of The Helen Oxenbury Nursery Story Book, retold and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury. The crispness of the stories -- just the right length for bedtime reading -- is balanced by fresh, invigorating illustrations. (Knopf, $12.95, ages 4 and up.)

The Story of Holly & Ivy, by Rumer Godden, a holiday classic, has a fresh look. New illustrations by Barbara Cooney add an extra dimension to the familiar, gently moving text. Young readers -- and special friends who read to them -- will appreciate anew the warm glow of the Christmas spirit throughout this book. (Viking Kestrel, $12.95, ages 5 and up.)

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