The Ark in the Attic: An Alphabet Adventure, photographs by Starr Ockenga; text and painted backgrounds by Eileen Doolittle (Godine: $18.95; 72 pp.; all ages).
Parents who forget to check pockets know what it's like to scoop stuff out of the washing machine after the spin cycle stops. Coins, barrettes and stones are OK, but the snails and worms have turned into an unpleasant mush. These are just a few of the valuables kids can gather in a day, not to mention what's already molding (or molting) in that shoe box under the bed. Years of collecting can make a teen-ager's closet unsavory, yet turn an attic into a treasure house of memories.
On this premise, the author and photographer sorted through hundreds of objects: museum relics, kitchen gadgets, foods and flowers. From these they arranged 26 collages, all photographed in luxurious color and captioned with a rhyming alliterative poem. The book begins with an antique Alice doll tiptoeing up the attic stairs to explore. "There must be something stored away, / put by for such a rainy day-- / armor, flowers, an arrowhead, / an afghan taken from my bed. / Abandoned toys are kept up here / and added to from year to year."
Alice finds an ark, then asks the reader to join her as she fills it with doodads from A to Z, most of them instantly recognized by children. The "adventure," as suggested by the title, begins when adults squint and notice, "Hey that's a Begonia Blossom! And there's a Fiddlehead Fern Frond!" The orange blob in the corner is Jell-O, and the picture of Teddy Roosevelt is nested in the Ps: Postcard of a President.
Fortunately a key in the back of the book labels every object. Adults will flash on their childhood ("That wooden giraffe is exactly like the one Bertie gave me on my eighth birthday!").
Kids will love pointing to familiar things and asking about the oddities. If there's such a thing as a playful book, this is it.
What Luck! A Duck!, written and illustrated by Amy Goldman Koss (Price/Dern/Sloan: $7.95; 32 pp.; ages 3 to 6).
These bright, oversized drawings will keep pre-schoolers absorbed for the entire adventure of Henry and his painting of a pond, which he has laid outside to dry. Selma the duck lands on it and gets stuck; things take off from there. The rhyming text, tucked in neat boxes, is fun to read, and Koss sneaks in the message that trapped "creature(s) should be freed!" An integrated crowd scene includes a boy in a wheelchair.