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CHILDREN'S BOOKSHELF

PEG SOLITAIRE (Klutz Press: $17.95) : THE TOOBERS & ZOTS TRAVEL COMPANION. By Liz Doyle . Illustrated by Jack Keely (Planet Dexter: $14.99) : TRAVEL FUN (Dorling Kindersley: $15.95 : DESIGN A PAPER DOLL YOU (The Learning Works Inc.: $6.95)

July 28, 1996|MARTIN ZIMMERMAN

Summertime and the travelin' is easy . . . at least till junior gets bored three miles into the trip. To the rescue: Publishers Klutz Press, Planet Dexter and Dorling Kindersley. Each takes a different tack to the same goal (parental sanity-saving and/or child entertainment), and parents might do well to pack the entire trio of offerings in the kid's suitcase.

Peg Solitaire: 23 All-On-Your-Own Games, with a "main thinker" credit to Estela Fernandez, is deceptively simple. The games--"Star Solitaire," "The Jump," "Keep Your Eye on the Ball" and others--are clearly shown in excellent graphics and rated in difficulty from "no-brainer" to "brain surgery." All you have to do is move the pegs from one position to another, jumping them along the way and removing the jumpees.

Easy? Ha! Absorbing? Very. Heavy plastic peg boards between pages make for a sturdy playing field, and the pegs are kept in a neat pencil pack on the side--very helpful on car and airplane trips.

I'm tempted to recommend The Toobers&Zots Travel Companion just because it is so much fun to say--try quickly repeating it 10 times without giggling--but there is much more to this assemblage than just a pretty name. The titular toobers and zots are pieces of spongy material in various shapes; the front cover doubles as a storage space and the back cover serves as a game board and anchor for the sculptures the kids will make with the T&Zs.

An activity book offers a range of games, puzzles, stories and miscellaneous boredom beaters, including "Strip Toober," "Zic Zac Zoe" and the like. The inside front cover doubles as a "T&Z Turbo Thumb Wrestling Mat complete with holes for said appendages."

Even without the guidance, kids can wile the road hours away just playing with these addictive little objects. A word of warning: You might want to tear out the "Top Ten List of How to Drive Adults Bonkers in the Car" before you give it to the kid.

Travel Fun takes more of a shotgun approach to keeping little minds occupied, packing a number of items into its cardboard box. The games and activities range from a "Travel Fun Activity Book" (a trip diary that includes transportation puzzles and quizzes) to the old favorite "Cat's Cradle Cord." Other items include game cards, travel stickers, wipe-clean games and crayons and a magnetic board game.

One or more of the games should hit junior's target. One caveat: Some of these games and activities call for multiple players, so if you are traveling with just one tyke, you might find yourself right back where you started.

Design a Paper Doll You is a throwback to the simpler activity books of old--with a nice twist. Kids glue photographs of themselves to the faces of the cutouts and then go to work on designing outfits for their paper selves. They decide the details--plaids, stripes or solids?--on clothing ranging from formal fashions to roller-blading togs. They can also create paper dolls for the rest of the family or add friends' photos to the mix.

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