Honoring the joy of being alive. Mostly pictures

ONE of the most important functions of children's books is to honor the joy of being alive. Sometimes, of course, this joy has its conditions. In Mister King, by Raija Siekkinen, illustrated by Hannu Taina (Carolrhoda, Minneapolis, $12.95, unpaged, ages 4 to 8), a lonely king is visited by a cat that comes to the door and asks for shelter. ``What a beautiful house you have,'' the cat observes, and suddenly the king is awakened to ``all the things that he hadn't seen in many, many years'' - the sky, the garden, his library, and his own large capacity for friendship.

This is a lovely book with calm, blue-green pictures. Though it seems to imply that companionship depends on one's possessions, it is right on the mark in showing how thoroughly happiness is fed by neighbors and friends.

Wild Wild Sunflower Child Anna, by Nancy White Carlstrom, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney (Macmillan, New York, $13.95, unpaged, ages 4 to 8), is a rhapsody to nature and a dancing, dark-skinned girl: ``Flying in the field/ in the greening/ of the morning./ Anna drifts,/ Anna glides,/ Anna's arms open wide.''

There isn't much incident here, or point, but the verses are affirming and the sunny pictures are as pretty as a basket of flowers in May. Bumblebees and daisies, frogs and berries, make Anna's pleasure in being out-of-doors complete.

Reflections, by Ann Jonas (Greenwillow, New York, $13, unpaged, ages 4 to 8), begins with the narrator saying contentedly, ``The best place I know is here by the sea.'' What follows is a leisurely day of walking past such favorite sights as a boatyard and an orchard.

The narrative, however, is just a device to tug the reader through the pictures - each viewed right side up the first time, then upside down. Halfway through the book, the speaker reaches a stand of trees and turns around to ``find my way back.''

The reader, meanwhile, turns the book around and follows along, as shapes that had served as sailboats change into kites, and other transformations occur. Some of the pictures are more convincing than others, but on the whole this is a clever attempt to stretch the bounds of the format.

In The Lady's Chair and the Ottoman, by Noel Tennyson (Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, New York, $11.75, unpaged, ages 6 to 10), an ottoman longs to be united with a chair and, quite by accident, gets his wish. Although the story suffers a bit from a lack of focus on the ottoman as a character, the secondary characters take up some slack. There are the Pudneys, with their three boys, ``the type of people who use things up and buy new ones''; the grandfather clock, with his gloomy sense of propriety; and the loveseat, who gives the ottoman some hope in his darkest hour.

In a lively style, with dialogue that begs to be read out loud, Tennyson's text is as full and interesting as his pictures.

Mary Lou Burket reviews children's books for many publications.

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