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CHILDREN'S BOOKSHELF

June 20, 1993|SONJA BOLLE and SUSAN SALTER REYNOLDS

DOGZILLA by Dav Pilkey, author and illustrator (Harcourt Brace & Company: $10.95, ages 3-8). The quiet, law-abiding citizens of Mousopolis are preparing for their First Annual Barbecue Cook-Off. The smells awaken the dreaded, the terrible, the super-ugly Dogzilla from his slumber in a nearby volcano. Brave troops led by the Big Cheese implement a plan masterminded by Professor O'Hairy to run the mutt out of town. The stars of this show are the author's pets Flash, Rabies and Dwayne (the mice), and Leia (Dogzilla). The illustrations are beautiful, campy, colorful collages of photos and drawings.

YO! YES? by Chris Raschka (Orchard Books: $14.95, ages 3-6). "YO!"says the kid on the left-hand page. "Yes?"says the timid kid on the right. "Hey!" "Who?" "You!" "Me?" continues their conversation, back and forth across the book's gutter, as they lean in toward the center ("Look!" "Hmmm?") . . . until they spring over onto the same page--pals now ("YOW!"). Raschka is also the author of "Charlie Parker Played Be Bop," another great book with a beat.

MICHAEL THE ANGEL by Laura Fishetto, pictures by Letizia Galli (Doubleday: $15.95). A children's biography of the Italian Renaissance artist Michelangelo, this book leans on the familiar stereotype of the artist as moody eccentric. The text is sufficiently idiosyncratic to please, though, offering as refrain variations on the question: He paints like an angel, but what kind of angel gets his nose broken in a fight? The sharpest delight comes from the pictures, which reproduce that kaleidoscopic tumble of shapes and color that enchants every visitor to Italy.

RED LIGHT, STOP--GREEN LIGHT, GO by Andrew Kulman (Simon & Schuster: $15). Your babies may not be ready yet for a learner's permit, but it's Los Angeles, and the sooner they learns the rules of the road the better. Everyone has to come to a stop at the red light: convertibles, trucks, taxis (even in L.A. they need to learn about these; they might travel one day), fast cars, slow cars--even towed cars--and skateboards too. When the light changes, look out! There are more car books out there than BMWs on L.A. freeways, but the illustrations in this one are unusually lively.

EVERYBODY POOPS by Taro Gomi (Kane/Miller: $11.95). At a certain age all kids are bound to embarrass everyone around them by piping up publicly about their body's wonderful functions; the question is how enthusiastically you're going to encourage or suppress them. Taro Gomi's title says it all, and the illustrations show it: Some animals make big poops, some make small, some cover it up carefully, some let it lie. There's no puritanical, lips-pursed, grin-and-bear-it earnestness about the story. Moms, have you put up with years of scatological humor, only now to hear a lot of squeamish "Eeeeewwwws" from the guys about the most natural occurrence of the smelly stuff? Here's a good pay-back. (See detail from "Everybody Poops" at top of Page 1.)

KAT KONG by Dav Pilkey, author and illustrator. (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich: $10.95, ages 3-8). Flash, Rabies and Dwayne star again in this new thriller, "Kat Kong," introducing Blueberry the cat as you-know-who. Doctor Vincent Varmint, his beautiful assistant Rosie Rodent and Captain Charles Limburger discover the hideous monster on an uncharted island and bring it back to Mousopolis in the name of science. But Kat Kong escapes, taking Rosie with him straight up to the top of the Romano Inn. Once again, mouse ingenuity triumphs over brute strength. What finally kills Kat Kong? Curiosity, of course!

THE TABLE AND THE CHAIR by Edward Lear, pictures by Tom Powers (HarperCollins: $15). "The Table and the Chair" is a nonsense poem from Edward Lear's 1846 collection, "The Book of Nonsense." Nonsense is good for the imagination, good for the tongue, good for the soul. It's the icing on the language cake, and Tom Powers, who grew up in Peru and Mexico, adds his bright, subtle, odd colors to the adventure.

THIS IS BASEBALL by Margaret Blackstone, pictures by John O'Brien (Holt: $14.95). Sure, it's just a game, but in our house the baby slept with a glove when he came home from the hospital so that he would "get used to the smell." He went to his first Dodgers game at two months. It's only a game, and this simple, straightforward book explains the essential features (which can later be elevated to the conceptual, religious level). The infield, the outfield, the players, the umpire, the ball, the glove, the high fly ball to deep left field, the team that lost and the team that won. It's just a simple tool for deep indoctrination, and it may help to explain a few things to family members who never received early immersion.

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