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Tina Jordan on new books for little readers

Tina Jordan rates new reading material for your little bookworms

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Tina Jordan on new books for little readers

Guinness Book of World Records: The World’s Biggest Everything
(Time Inc., $16.95)
The world’s heaviest zucchini (64 lbs.8 oz.)? Tallest lady (7 ft. 7.25 inches)? Largest bowl of pasta (7355 lbs.)? They’re all here in this garish, photo-driven companion to the annual record book. It’s the kind of collection kids will pore through incessantly, driving their parents mad as they share one factoid after another. B
Recommended ages: 5 and up


Baby Animals: Books in a Box
(Chronicle, $19.95)
This cute little cardboard suitcase is brimming with 18 tiny board books, each featuring whimsical photos of baby animals — seals, penguins, lions, horses, lambs, turtles, and so on. (I like the ducklings best.) Small children, without fail, love pictures of other kinds of babies — and this charmingly packaged collection is a veritable explosion of them. A
Recommended ages: Infants-3


By Jenny Han (Simon & Schuster, $14.95)
Annemarie Wilcox — called Shug by her family, after Shug Avery in The Color Purple — is 12. Unlike her beautiful sister, Celia, she is ”not the kind of girls boys like…My hair is like dirty straw. It just sits at my shoulder and hangs…. My eyes are brown, the muddy kind of brown you get when you mix a bunch of watercolors together…. I am tall, too tall for my age, and I have no womanly curves to speak of. But worst of all are my freckles….” Her looks are a major problem because she’s got a big crush on the boy next door. Even worse, she’s about to start middle school. As if the usual travails of adolescence weren’t bad enough, her mom nips a bit too much at the wine bottle, and her parents have begun to fight. And yet, by book’s end — thanks to a mortifying school dance — Shug learns to believe in herself. As this delightful, utterly realistic first novel shows, Han hasn’t forgotten what it’s like to be 12. A-
Recommended ages: 10-14


By Valerie Hobbs (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, $16)
When we first meet Blackie, the sweet little border collie puppy is learning to work sheep on a ranch (”Sheep everywhere! They closed in all around us like a big gray woolly blanket, bawling and baaing, stinking like, well, sheep.”) But then the ranch is lost to a fire, and Blackie’s misfortunes begin. First he’s adopted by a family that chains him to a doghouse all day long. He manages to escape and becomes the partner of an odd hermit called the Goat Man, who calls him Shep and tends to him lovingly. But then the Goat Man dies, and the lovable little dog soon finds himself called Sparky, forced to perform in a circus, cringing at the touch of a whip. Finally, in the end, he befriends a lonely little boy who calls him Jack, which turns out to be the very best name of all. Children who love animal stories will delight in this first-person — or should I say first-dog? — tale. A
Recommended ages: 8-12


Gem of the Week
Mrs. Mustard’s Babyfaces
By Jane Wattenberg (Chronicle, $5.95, in print since 1989)
Here’s hoping this funky, laminated little accordion book — which folds out to reveal happy baby faces on one side, and sad, tearful baby faces on the other — never goes out of print. What is it about the disembodied little heads, set against bright backgrounds, that thrills the under-2 set? I don’t know, but my own children wore their copies to nubs, and every time I give Babyfaces as a gift, parents marvel at its ability to keep drooly infants happy for long chunks of time.
Recommended ages: Infants-2