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Books For Kids

January 20, 2002

SNOW DAY

By Lynn Plourde, illustrated by Hideko Takahashi

Simon & Schuster: 32 pp., $16

"Yawn./ Hug the pillow./ A cozy, curled lump in the quilt./ Mama whispers, 'Snow day, child.'/ The quilt bursts open./ Is it ... / Could it ... / Would it be?" To a child, perhaps no two words inspire greater joy than Plourde's ("Pigs in the Mud in the Middle of the Rud") titular phrase. For the family--freed from school, released from work and not tethered to the television set--the day is defined by its events. They eat "plumpy pumpkin muffins" on a "yummy snow day"; watch the "wild, whirling wind" on a "fierce snow day"; and enjoy "checkers and chuckles" on a "playful snow day."

Lynn Plourde's snappy verse, with its brief phrases and effective use of onomatopoeia, convey the active pace from wake-up to wind-down. Hideko Takahashi's ("Beach Play") bold acrylics feature the wide-eyed, exuberant brother and sister in crisp winter landscapes and cozy scenes by the hearth. (Ages 3-6)

*

FOREST FRIENDS' FIVE SENSES

By Cristina Garelli, illustrated by Francesca Chessa

Alfred A. Knopf: 32 pp., $14.95

In this tale from the team behind "Farm Friends Clean Up," five forest inhabitants gather around the campfire and take turns responding to Boar's prompt, "Who has a story about one of the five senses?" Hawk tells of the time that his impaired vision caused him to crash into a mountain; Bear was once stung by a bee (on the tongue) while foraging and couldn't taste honey.

Fortunately, in each case, Dr. Owl was around to dispense the appropriate medical care--whether it meant plucking splinters from Squirrel's paws or cleaning excess wax from Rabbit's ears so he could hear again. Though the premise is forced, the text may inspire some cause-and-effect discussions about the five senses from young readers, and may even placate those who fear going to the doctor. But it's Francesca Chessa's earth-toned, dense brushwork that supplies the book's real pleasure. Making the most of the book's oblong format, she stretches many of her full-bleed scenes across an entire spread for maximum visual impact. In one humorous vignette, a bewildered-looking Skunk--who has been sprayed accidentally by a friend but is so congested that he can't smell the results--occupies one end of a seesaw, while all his animal friends huddle together at the other end, holding their own or each other's noses. (Ages 3-6)

*

MOLLY AND THE MAGIC DRESS

By William Norwich, illustrated by M. Scott Miller

Doubleday: 42 pp., $16.95

Whereas Eloise hoists high society on its own petard even while it preserves the Plaza's allure, this upscale fairy tale vacillates between irony and ingenuous optimism. Molly and her slinky calico cat share an elegant Manhattan apartment with Molly's platinum-coifed mother and a prim, plump housekeeper. Although she wears a frock from Paris to her cousin's wedding, Molly prefers her "magic" dress, an off-pink relic with an unraveling lace hem: "It turned Molly into anyone she wished. All she needed to say was 'Perfect dress in a perfect world, take me into another whirl.'" During the ritzy reception at the Knickerbilt Club, Molly escapes to a quiet room to put on her shabby garment. To her surprise, she finds a homeless woman. Molly convinces her to put on the magic dress, the party guests walk in and suddenly, "They were all staring at the Queen of England!" Depending on the reader, the magic-dress conceit might be whimsical or satirical; the florid narration and prodigally happy ending make it hard to tell. William Norwich, entertaining editor of the New York Times Magazine, relies heavily on stereotypes and the pretentiousness of the delivery undercuts the social critique. Likewise, debut illustrator M. Scott Miller skewers the elite without evoking any warmth for the title character; his caricatures of the moneyed class have a dry-cleaned artificiality. (All ages)

*

I LOVE SATURDAYS Y DOMINGOS

By Alma Flor Ada, illustrated by Elivia Savadier

Simon & Schuster/Atheneum: 32 pp., $16.95

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