Choices for children

Author-illustrator Anne Rockwell's new baby books -- At Night, In the Rain, In the Morning, and At the Playground -- are illustrated with clear, pastel colors. Simple text highlights objects familiar to young children. (Crowell, $2.50, ages 1 to 3.) Many children are already familiar with ``Chicken Licken,'' but Jan Ormerod's bold illustrations for The Story of Chicken Licken bring a new twist to this nonsensical tale. While a cast of children act out the story, the reader is able to watch a drama unfolding in the audience as well as onstage. (Lothrop, $13, ages 2 to 6.)

A Walk in the Rain, by Ursel Scheffler, celebrates a boy's delight in exploring the countryside with his grandmother during a spring rainstorm. Ulises Wensell's gentle watercolor illustrations make readers want to take a walk in the rain, too. (Putnam, $7.95, ages 4 to 7.)

Young Bo spends each summer with his grandpa -- they fish, play ball, and walk through the cornfields. But this visit is special because they celebrate a summer Christmas. Warm pencil illustrations by author Kevin Henkes evoke the special friendship between a boy and his grandfather in Grandpa and Bo. (Greenwillow, $11.75, ages 4 to 8.)

Sally Scott has retold and illustrated The Magic Horse, a Persian tale about a life-sized magical horse carved out of ebony. Jewel-like illustrations, reminiscent of Persian miniatures, adorn this unusual fairy tale for school-aged children. (Greenwillow, $11.75, ages 5 to 8.)

Lady With a Torch, by Eleanor Coerr, focuses on the man who created the Statue of Liberty rather than the statue itself. The story of Fr'ed'eric August Bartholdi and his dream to build the biggest statue in the world is the most interesting of several children's books published in honor of the 100th anniversary of Liberty's completion. (Harper & Row, $10.95, ages 7 to 11.)

Biologist Ron Hirschi has written an information-packed yet readable book on horned and antlered wildlife of North America. Headgear discusses the differences and similarities between horned and antlered animals, as well as ancient myths associated with certain of them. Sharply focused color photographs by Galen Burrell accompany the text. A color map indicating where the animals live would have been useful. (Dodd, Mead, $12.95, ages 8 to 12.)

Oliver Dibbs to the Rescue!, the story of a young boy and his projects to save a variety of animals -- tiger, baby seals, and prairie dogs -- is written with humor and a light touch. Although the tale is believable and realistic, author Barbara Steiner's personal views about protecting wild species come through too strongly, interfering at times. Line drawings by Eileen Christelow add to the humor. (Four Winds Press, $9.95, ages 8 to 10.)

Ten-year-old Arabella Fitzgerald, whose mother is very wealthy, had never given much thought to her surroundings -- her nanny took care of her, the cook fixed her meals, the maid cleaned her room and her clothes. But when she suddenly finds herself changed into a cat, Arabella reevaluates herself and her life style. Bella Arabella, by Liza Fozburgh with drawings by Catherine Stock, is a delightful fantasy that is easily accessible to children. (Four Winds Press, $11.95, ages 9 to 12.)

A Royal Pain, by Ellen Conford, is a zany, hilarious story of mistaken identity. When Abby Adams first learns that she is really Princess Florinda, heir to the throne of a tiny European country, she is very happy. A princess can do anything she wants, right? Wrong! And when Abby realizes how wrong she is, she hatches a plan to get herself out of this royal mess. (Scholastic, $11.95, ages 10 and up.)

Secure in the love of the grandparents who raised her, Rosemary has never missed her parents. But the unexpected passing of her grandmother requires her to reasses her relationship with her grandfather, her priorities at school, and her friendship with Kevin, the boy down the street, in Then I'll Be Home Free. Phyllis Wood has written a sensitive, compassionate book about the durability of love. (Dodd, Mead, $12.95, ages 11 and up.)

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