Ficton: ``Maniac Magee'' (ages 8-12) by Jerry Spinelli (Little, Brown & Co., $13.95). A runaway boy breaks through small-town racial tensions in this funny, spirited story. Non-fiction: ``The Great Little Madison'' (age 9 and up), by Jean Fritz (G.P. Putnam's Sons, $15.95). James Madison, fourth president of the United States (and ``no bigger than half a piece of soap,'' according to a contemporary), leaps from obscurity to center stage in this vigorous biography with a stellar supporting cast: lively Dolley (``shop 'til you drop'') Madison, loyal friend Thomas Jefferson, arch-rival Patrick Henry. This is history as it should be told.

Picture book: ``Lon Po Po: A Red Riding Hood Story from China'' (ages 4-9), translated and illustrated by Ed Young (Philomel Books, $14.95). Winner of this year's Caldecott medal as well, Young's dramatic, impressionistic artwork graces this re-telling of an ancient Chinese fairy tale in which three girls outwit a wily wolf (who may be a bit too scary for the very youngest audience).

Special citation for creative excellence: ``Valentine and Orson'' (all ages), by Nancy Ekholm Burkert (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $16.95). Unusual, beautiful rendition of a medieval ``folk play,'' written in couplets, about twin brothers separated at birth.

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