Real-life adventures for the preschool set. From breakfast to bedtime

MARCH around the clock with busy preschoolers from breakfast table to bedtime story in this new assortment of young children's picture books. Duck, by David Lloyd, illustrated by Charlotte Voake (Lippincott, New York, $12.95, 24 pp., ages 1 to 5), leads off with Tim attempting his first words. With delight and amazement, he trips through his first efforts at talking, using trial and error to distinguish ``horses'' from ``ducks'' and ``tractors'' from ``trucks.''

Having so much to learn and so much to look at, what better guide on his new adventure than a patient and perceptive granny? Wiggly lines and delicate colors depict this ingenious toddler and his discerning grandmother as they explore his new world together. The simple text with few words and oversize print make this story ideal for beginning readers.

In Fun, by Jan Mark, illustrated by Michael Foreman (Viking Kestrel, New York, $11.95, 26 pp., ages 3 to 6), the author playfully pokes fun at parental over-exuberance by contrasting James, a quiet child who delights in simple discoveries of nature, to his parents, who can't wait for their little boy to grow up so they can play with him.

While the adults demonstrate ``fun'' by leaping in leaves, swinging at the playground, and splashing in puddles, James is content to watch spiders, clouds, and his own reflection in the water.

Finally, James finds a solution to the dilemma and encourages his mother and father to consider a compromise. The outcome is humorous and unexpected, and by the end of the story everyone is having fun!

Spontaneous splashes of color (perhaps from James's paint box) add zest to this fun-filled picture book.

Lunch boxes are for big children who go to school, not for little brothers who stay at home, right? Well, at least one little boy doesn't agree in I Need a Lunch Box, by Jeanette Caines, illustrated by Pat Cummings, (Harper & Row, New York, $12.95, 32 pp., ages 3 to 6).

As his first-grade sister gets outfitted for school with new pencils, books, and raincoat, little brother longs for his own lunch box. He spends his days filling make-believe lunch boxes with crayons and butterflies, and his nights dreaming of elaborate, fantasy lunch boxes that look more like dinosaurs and spaceships.

Bold colors and creative composition will keep young children busy examining the imaginative details on every page. A clever use of stamps, which may go unnoticed by adult readers, will certainly catch the attention of most grade-schoolers.

It's time for Rebecca's afternoon sleep - at least it's supposed to be! Rebecca's Nap, by Fred Burstein, illustrated by Helen Cogancherry (Bradbury, New York, $12.95, 32 pp., ages 1 to 6), is the story of a sleepy afternoon spent napping ... and not napping.

Dad's wood chopping has disturbed Rebecca's quiet time, so while Mom snoozes, Dad and a wide-eyed Rebecca go exploring. Detailed sketches deftly portray the events of a mellow afternoon as father and daughter enjoy simple pleasures together.

The autumn sky casts a coppery glow on trees and meadows as the two investigate fox holes, pumpkin patches, and friendly toads. The activity and the crisp autumn air take a toll on the two adventurers and they return sleepily to bed and armchair. But just as Dad drifts off, Mom wakens and Rebecca is ready to set out again.

With all the warmth and rapture of a lullaby, Pajamas, by Livingston and Maggie Taylor, illustrated by Tim Bowers (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, San Diego, $13.95, 30 pp., ages 2 to 6), recounts the last few moments before a sleepy-headed boy and his teddy, Wilson, snuggle into bed. ``Pajamas,'' originally a song written and sung by co-author Livingston Taylor, highlights the fun of tickles and the warmth of cuddles shared by children and their parents at bedtime.

Encouraging children to read along with a song is becoming a popular in recent picture books. The softly shaded illustrations capture the nighttime mood, as the text reminds the toddler that it's time to go to sleep. An ideal bedtime book for beginning readers.

Joan Sherman Hunt has been a children's librarian and reading teacher.

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