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TALES FOR THE PERFECT CHILD by Florence Parry Heide, illustrations by Victoria Chess (Lothrop, Lee & Shepard: $13; 79 pp.; ages 7-10).

February 23, 1986|KRISTIANA GREGORY

If your children would never dream of sticking bubble gum on the cat, then it's probably OK to let them read this. But if it hasn't yet occurred to them how much fun it might be to dump flour, rice, sugar, coffee and salt onto your clean floor then mush it all together, better wait. This is full of great ideas.

These seven hilarious stories are about all those messy, naughty, horrifying things children seem to do innately. Like accidentally pouring grape juice down the front of a nice white outfit, then tromping through mud in brand-new shoes. Or taking so long to get dressed that the sunshiny day has turned to rain. Acting wild in the kitchen with china plates. And whining so expertly that Mom breaks down and serves a huge slice of pie right before dinner. You know, the usual. The stuff that drives you crazy, but later has you hee-hawing once the kids are in bed.

Chess draws her characters with such fun weirdness that even non-readers will laugh at the little monster children with dagger teeth, pointy ears and the kind of smiles that worry parents; Heide's tales are wonderfully funny, told with affection. Together, the pictures and stories make a perfect match (if you can bear the results).

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