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CHILDREN'S BOOKSHELF

The Further Adventures of Dinosaur Bob

June 04, 1995|MICHAEL CART

Dinosaur Bob is back! Author-illustrator William Joyce's best-selling picture book about America's favorite baseball-playing brontosaurus is now available in a newly revised and expanded edition (Dinosaur Bob and His Adventures With the Family Lazardo, HarperCollins: $15). The real news here is that a publisher has had the temerity, in economically uncertain times, to allow even a talent as prodigious as Joyce to mess with an already proven success. But the gamble has paid off: Bob is not only back; he's bigger and better than before. Joyce has added a spiffy new jacket, stylish endpapers, and eight eye-poppingly imaginative new pictures. As for the story, its basic premise remains the same: The eccentric family Lazardo, while on safari in Africa, discover a dinosaur whom they name "Bob" and adopt as an improbably prodigious but sweet-tempered pet. The folks at home aren't so smitten with Bob, however, and for a time it appears that the Lazardos will have to ditch the dino. But his unexpected prowess as a baseball player saves the day for the home team and there are happy endings all around. With the addition of 16 new pages, Joyce has enough space to introduce some dramatic tension missing from the original, most of it supplied by a snazzy villainess, Mrs. DeGlumly. To escape her clutches, Bob and the Lazardos go on the lam, and Joyce gives us some swell new pictures of their misadventures on the open road and elsewhere. He also gives us a song, "The Ballad of Dinosaur Bob," which is so captivating that 1,500 normally sober librarians couldn't resist singing it at the recent Texas Library Association convention--a scene as amusingly surreal as any that Joyce has so brilliantly conceived for his bigger, better book about the ever-lovin' Bob.

You may not find a dinosaur in a zoo, but most of the animals you do find are celebrated in poet Martha Robinson's first book for children, The Zoo at Night (Margaret McElderry Books: $16). If you've ever wondered "What happens when they close the zoo / And all the people go away," this is the book for you. Robinson's rhyming answers are fresh and engaging while Antonio Frasconi's accompanying woodcuts are not only marvels of execution but as richly colored and luscious-looking as ripe tropical fruit.

For a story that offers excitement with dickensian setting and complications, treat yourself to Emily Arnold McCully's page-turner, Little Kit or, The Industrious Flea Circus Girl (Dial: $14.99). The Caldecott Medal-winning McCully has captured the clutter and chaos of Victorian London in her watercolor and pastel pictures--perfect complements to the deeply satisfying story she has created of a foundling and a flea circus.

Closer to the American scene and experience is the heartwarming story of a family which, through seven generations and 185 years, calls the same farm and sturdy house their Homeplace (Richard Jackson/Orchard Books: $15.95). Wendy Anderson Halperin has created 150 pictures as softly colored as the sweetest of the many memories which a grandmother shares here with her young granddaughter. The book is so deftly designed that the unusually generous number of pictures never crowds a page or distracts the reader's eye from author Anne Shelby's lovingly written text. It's a book to treasure.

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