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HOW A BOOK IS MADE by Aliki (Crowell: $12.95; 32 pp.; age 7-up).

March 15, 1987|KRISTIANA GREGORY

Its title gives away the contents of this picture book that speaks as much to adults as it does children. Humanized cats show how an author/illustrator goes to the editor who goes to the publisher who goes to the designer, proofreader, production director, et al.

What begins simply--"I like books"--with a child wondering how they're made, soon piles into a Dagwood sandwich of details. The center, for instance, looks like a journalism text with small-print: "Sometimes the art is PRESEPARATED by the artist. A separate overlay is made for each color. . . . Each flat is put into a frame together with a thin metal PHOTOSENSITIVE PLATE." It's doubtful early readers will look twice at these pages, which in turn might scare them away for good.

The question then is: For whom is this book intended? Aliki is certainly a distinguished illustrator, as these drawings prove. Her cats are cute with friendly colors and antics sure to charm children, and having cats do the people chores is less intimidating. But why all the teeny print and minutiae only a select few adults will savor? If it's a book for adults or even teens, why all the kitties?

"How a Book Is Made" is interesting although please don't quiz me on the inside of the FOUR-COLOR OFFSET PRINTING PRESS; it's a doozy, that one. Another problem is that it's a pain to read aloud. There are cats talking in overhead balloons, there are indescribable diagrams and captions calling for bifocals. And then there is the story line. Teachers would have quite a time using this in class, squinting and pointing.

Aliki's enthusiasm transcends these quibbles. She is trying to share her love for books and show kids how much care goes into them. At the end, her cat-boy opens a birthday present. "A book for me! I can read it. I can smell it," he says. "I can keep it forever." Here, she succeeds quite well.

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