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October 11, 1987|KRISTIANA GREGORY

THE THREE ROBBERS by Tomi Ungerer (Atheneum Publishers: $14.95; 32 pp.; ages 3-6).

For 25 years, children have enjoyed Tomi Ungerer's droll fairy tale about the fierce robbers who creep along dark roads blowing pepper at horses. The thieves are silhouetted in black against midnight blue, simple oversized shapes typical of Ungerer's clean style. Splashes of friendly color arrive with Tiffany, an orphan delighted to meet the men and pleased as anything to be taken to their secret cave. Preschoolers will love seeing what the robbers do with all the loot, and they will love to learn--in fairy-tale fashion--that lonely children can live "happily ever after." This reissue puts a decent classic back on the shelves.

LONG AGO IN OREGON by Claudia Lewis; pictures by Joel Fontaine (Harper & Row, Publishers: $11.95; 55 pp.; ages 8-12).

Wistful, beautiful pencil drawings illustrate these poems about life in a small Oregon town in 1917. They are true vignettes written by a young girl wondering when she will wear a corset with long skirts and hair piled high, "soft as mother's." She remembers summer nights on the sleeping porch, a parade and a trip to the sawmill where blades slice through the huge trees "as easily as a knife cuts . . . brown bread."

The barefoot pleasure of summer is timeless: "Oh tumbling joy/of the mustard field,/the vacant lot next to Jackson's--/Rip through, run,/lie down and roll/in the sweet/bitter taste of yellow--/Gobble blossoms!" Though "Long Ago in Oregon" reflects life 70 years old, readers will always identify with Lewis' ponderings of growing up, death, baby sisters and moving to a new house.

I WANT TO GO TO SCHOOL TOO by Astrid Lindgren; pictures by Ilon Wikland (Farrar, Straus & Giroux Inc.: $10.95; 32 pp.; ages 4-8).

This is one of a new group published in Sweden by R&S (Raben & Sjogren), printed in Italy and distributed in this country. "I Want to Go to School Too" (translated from "Jag vill ocksa ga i skolan" by Barbara Lucas) has the universal theme of the younger sibling wanting to copy the older child, but what makes this especially fun are the Scandinavian details. Most American kids would gag if they ate cucumbers and tomatoes for breakfast, but not Lena and Peter. Their table is set with brick cheese and a hearty dark bread that they butter, then pile high with veggies; in the lunchroom the class eats pancakes with ligonberry jam. Pictures are bright and full of pleasant clutter. The children pad shoeless around class, and at recess the teacher, dressed comfortably in clogs and maternity clothes, lets a child feel the baby kicking inside her. Youngsters not yet in school will find Peter and Lena's day together reassuring.

ANNIE BANANIE by Leah Komaiko; illustrated by Laura Cornell (Harper & Row Publishers Inc.: $11.95; 32 pp.; ages 4-8).

This first book for both author and artist uses humorous rhymes to explore the friendship of two little girls who are parting, similar to the boys in Aliki's "Best Friends." Annie has red hair, freckles and a mischievous approach to life that has kept the neighborhood hopping. "How can you just go away?/What about my sixth birthday?/Annie Bananie, Don't you cry--/Even best friends say good-by." Cornell's funny illustrations are great!

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