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April 19, 1987|KRISTIANA GREGORY

ANGELINA ON STAGE by Katharine Holabird; illustrated by Helen Craig (Clarkson N. Potter: $7.95; 24 pp.; ages 3-6). Any child with a younger sibling who is a tag-along embarrassment will delight in this latest mouse tale by collaborators Holabird and Craig. This is Angelina's fifth appearance in the picture book series that features the most erudite mice since Stuart Little.

Angelina's cousin, Henry, joins her ballet class even though he is small, klutzy and insists "on dancing in his own funny way." This frustrates her no end, especially when she realizes they'll both dance in "The Gypsy Queen," an adult musical to be directed by the great Mr. Popoff. Her worries come true, for on opening night, Henry gets lost backstage, forgets his lines and nearly melts with humiliation. Then Angelina comes to the rescue.

The illustrations are balanced among the text in various sizes, all of them charming in their friendly portrayal of artsy mice. They play violin, paint props, pirouette in toe shoes, and there's Madame Zizi, the prima ballerina, nibbling chocolates in her dressing room. Drawings are in subdued pastels and tell the story independently so pre-schoolers can enjoy turning pages by themselves.

Youngsters will be interested to observe the goings-on of theater productions, how the dancers and musicians practice, and how the combined efforts of stage hands pull it all together for an audience dressed to the nines. Most of all, "Angelina" shows older children that being big doesn't mean being best. Grace and patience is what comes when you are big inside.

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