BROWN ANGELS: AN ALBUM OF PICTURES AND VERSE By Walter Dean Myers. HarperCollins 40 pp, $16 All ages.
FESTIVAL IN MY HEART: POEMS BY JAPANESE CHILDREN Selected and translated by Bruno Navasky. Harry N. Abrams 120 pp., $29.95 All ages.
NO DODOS: A COUNTING BOOK OF ENDANGERED ANIMALS Written and illustrated by Amanda Wallwork. Scholastic 32 pp., $14.95 Ages 4 to 8.
I SPY TWO EYES: NUMBERS IN ART Devised and selected by Lucy Micklethwait. Greenwillow Books 48 pp., $19 All ages.
TUMBLE TOWER By Anne Tyler Illustrated by Mitra Modarressi. Orchard Books 32 pp., $14.95 Ages 4 to 7.
THE PAGEMASTER By David Kirschner and Ernie Contreras Illustrated by Jerry Tiritilli. Turner, 96 pp., $19.95 All ages.
THE SNOW QUEEN By Hans Christian Andersen Illustrated by Mary Engelbreit. Workman, 48 pp., $15.95 Ages 5 and up.
BOOK EYEWITNESS BOOKS By Karen Brookfield Photographed by Laurence Pordes. Alfred A. Knopf 64 pp., $15 Ages 10 and up.
CAPTURING NATURE: THE WRITINGS AND ART OF JOHN JAMES AUDUBON Edited by Peter and Connie Roop Additional illustrations by Rick Farley. Walker & Co. 39 pp., $16.95 Ages 10 and up.
TALKING PEACE: A VISION FOR THE NEXT GENERATION By Jimmy Carter. Dutton, 192 pp., $16.99 Ages 12 and up.
IN this season of happy holidays, Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa provide plenty of gift-giving opportunities for children's books.
But with several thousand volumes published this year alone, how can you find a winner? The following 10 possibilities may help narrow the shopping field for the young readers on your list. Poetry books
Brown Angels: An Album of Pictures and Verse is a captivating book for children of all ages. Award-winning writer Walter Dean Myers has created a handful of inspiring and affirming poems to complement wonderful, turn-of-the-century photos of African-American children. These special black-and-white portraits - many from the author's own collection - are a true celebration of childhood.
Festival in My Heart: Poems by Japanese Children is an enchanting book. This collection represents a surprising depth of emotion and range of subjects for such young poets. Artful poems - giving insight into Japanese culture - describe family life, birth, death, love, nature, and war. These verses originally appeared as a daily feature in a Japanese newspaper, and here some of the best have been collected and translated into English by Bruno Navasky. Splendid examples of Japanese art - often centuries old - illustrate these contemporary poems perfectly. Picture books
Adults eager to introduce young children to environmental issues will find a great gift in No Dodos: A Counting Book of Endangered Animals. Bright designs and striking, torn-paper illustrations are bound to make this eye-catching book a favorite. Starting with ``one whale,'' going up to ``ten turtles,'' and finally to ``no dodos,'' brief - and sometimes alliterative - text appears on each double-page spread.
At the back of the book, author/ illustrator Amanda Wallwork adds a paragraph of information about each animal, including the unfortunate dodo, and tells what can be done to prevent further extinctions.
Another counting book, which will appeal to art lovers, is ``I Spy Two Eyes: Numbers In Art.'' In this sequel to ``I Spy: An Alphabet In Art,'' Lucy Mickelthwait has chosen 20 masterpieces by Gauguin, Rubens, Botticelli, and other artists to introduce youngsters to famous paintings while playing a favorite counting game. Searching through the work of great masters to ``spy'' three puppies, eight children, or 20 angels will be fun and rewarding. This delightful book will go from nursery to living room, with both children and parents wanting a turn.
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Anne Tyler has teamed up with her illustrating daughter Mitra Modarressi to create Tumble Tower, a kid-pleasing story about Princess Molly the Messy and her royal family of neatnicks.
When the rest of her family is flooded out of the spotlessly clean castle, Molly welcomes them to her Tumble Tower. She turns disaster into a cozy evening of togetherness by sharing outgrown pajamas, serving a leftover half sandwich, and reading fairy tales from a book tucked under a pillow. Soft watercolor illustrations and waif-like characters keep the tone of this book gentle and reassuring even though it touches on elements of many real-life family battles. Storybooks
While not the only edition of The Snow Queen out this season, Mary Engelbreit's is certainly the most charming and colorful. Known widely for her greeting-card illustrations, Engelbreit's trademarks - bright patterns, sweet-faced children, and stylized flowers - add appealing cheerfulness to Hans Christian Andersen's classic tale of love and friendship.
Nonstop action makes The Pagemaster feel like a movie. And no wonder: It's written and illustrated by filmmakers who bring their talents to this inventive book. It may seem like a straightforward adventure story with timid, 10-year-old Richard journeying though the horror, adventure, and fantasy sections of a library, but this book is also a puzzle for experienced readers who will enjoy recognizing characters, plots, and snatches of dialog from the classics of children's literature.
In the library, Richard meets monsters, pirates, and dragons who pack more excitement into his young life than he ever wanted. Sharing in his close-call escape, readers come to understand the Pagemaster's advice: ``When in doubt, look to the books.'' Vibrant, imaginative illustrations will win over the most jaded TV watcher and the fast-paced story will keep him or her hooked. Informational books
Bibliophiles will pore over Book, another volume in the outstanding Eyewitness Books series. This one - about books - covers the origin of written language, illuminated manuscripts, movable type and typesetting, bookmaking, and libraries. Bursting with fascinating, detailed photos and clear, well-researched text, every double-page spread is a self-contained display. Readers will view clay tablets, a Gutenberg Bible, a horn book, and more.
Young naturalists will read and reread Capturing Nature: The Writings and Art of John James Audubon, edited by Peter and Connie Roop. The text comes from Audubon's own journals and through carefully selected excerpts describes his early life in Europe, his fascination with wildlife in America, and his struggle to publish his art.
A dozen of Audubon's beautiful, full-color illustrations are also reproduced here. Illustrator Rick Farley's work, depicting scenes narrated by Audubon's diaries, alternates with the famous prints. The America Audubon knew has almost disappeared, but this book - the first written for young people combining his own art and words - will bring it to life again.
Talking Peace: A Vision for the Next Generation is not a lavishly illustrated gift book, but it may be one of the more important books given this season. Written by former President Jimmy Carter, this political and highly personal book suggests ways that peace can be achieved.
Starting with a vivid, first-person account of the Camp David accords, Carter goes on to explore conflict - current and historic - as well as important but seldom-seen negotiating skills. Recognizing that peace is more than the absence of war, he discusses social elements needed for lasting peace: food, shelter, health care, human rights - especially children's rights.
This is a timely, thought-provoking, and hopeful book about creating and maintaining peace. The last chapter, ``What You Can Do,'' gives readers practical ways to start working on peace as soon as they close the cover.