We review the newest kid lit, including ''Yo! Yes?,'' ''Behind the Secret Window,'' and more

By EW Staff
Updated April 30, 1993 at 04:00 AM EDT

The latest in children’s books

The scoop on brand-new kids’ books, from tales of animal antics for prereaders to Dr. Ruth’s sex advice for preteens; plus, Mama and Papa Berenstain tell (almost) all.

”This Little Baby” Series by Ann Morris and Lynn Breeze; illustrated by Lynn Breeze (Little, Brown, $6 each) Printed on sturdy cardboard pages, these read-alouds treat babies to tender pictures of their own familiar world (strollers, swings, parents, and teddy bears). Breeze’s drawings are upbeat, although sometimes her smiling characters look not just happy but tipsy. B+Leonard S. Marcus

Yo! Yes? by Chris Raschka (Orchard Books, $15) There are more words in this review than in Yo! Yes?, which uses just 34 of them to develop a relationship between two young boys. Author-illustrator Raschka sticks to one-syllable street talk (”Hey!” ”Yo!” ”Yes?” ”Who?”)— a neat trick — but the book just doesn’t nearly soar the way his widely praised 1992 Charlie Parker played be bop did. BSusan Stewart

Tom and Pippo on the Beach by Helen Oxenbury (Candlewick, $6) For this small, square toddler, Oxenbury has painted sunny watercolors conveying the radiance of a day at the beach — and the warmth of a dad who patiently persuades his young son, Tom, to wear a sun hat. Tom mimics Dad’s gentle attentiveness by taking good care of his stuffed monkey, Pippo. A-Michele Landsberg

The Little Red Hen by Byron Barton (Harper-Collins, $13) Barton pared down this familiar nursery tale into a simple text and ebullient, childlike paintings of the hen, her chicks, and her lazy friends. The art has strong visual appeal, but the kindergarten primitivism leaves little room for Bartons’ customary wit. B+ML

Giving by Shirley Hughes (Candlewick, $13) A little girl explores different uses of the word giving; she learns that you can give a hug, an angry look, or a tea party. Hughes packs humor and affection into her illustrations of family life, and her multiracial city scenes are alive with neighborly bustle. AML

Fox on Stage by James Marshall (Dial, $11) Although award-winning author-illustrator Marshall died last year, his playful spirit lives on his character, Fox — part likable hipster, part incorrigible bumbler. Here, Fox’s off-the-wall goings-on include adventures with a camcorder, a levitating chair, and a mummy. ALSM

Tom by Tommie dePaola (Putnam, $15) It’s male-bonding time! In his sixth autobiographical picture book, the prolific author-illustrator has churned out a choppy, emotionally lopsided account of his boyhood friendship with Granddad. DePaola overcooks his jokes while slighting the story’s truly poignant material. The art is blandly generic. CLSM

Dr. Ruth Talks to Kids by Dr. Ruth Westheimer (Macmillan, $14) This is simply the happiest sex book you’ll ever read. The ever-positive Dr. Ruth is pro-puberty, pro-lust, and even pro-masturbation. (At times, the book resembles an instruction manual.) Her cheer may not soothe the heart of adolescent darkness, but preteens will find her candor refreshing. ASS

Behind the Secret Window by Nelly S. Toll (Dial, $17) Like Anne Frank, author Toll was a Jewish child living in Nazi-occupied Europe and was forced into hiding under nightmarish conditions. Throughout her ordeal, 8-year-old Nelly painted radiant watercolors — pictures of the childhood she’d lost but could still imagine. Twenty-nine of those astonishing paintings illustrate her searingly eloquent memoir. ALSM

Baby, Come Out! by Fran Manushkin; illustrated by Ronald Himler (Harper-Collins, $4, ages 3 and up) Love and kisses conquer all in this quirky, wise, utterly original tale, which was first published two decades ago. The precocious heroine, a baby who is reluctant to be born, needs plenty of coaxing in order to leave the comfortable womb, but she eventually finds family life to be an even cozier delight. This hilarious, inside-the-womb view of childbirth is a timeless reminder that newborn babies need their family’s love more than they need anything else. ALSM

Children’s books accounted for 30 percent of all books purchased last year.
Goodnight Moon has sold 3.8 million copies since 1947; Where’s Waldo? has sold 4 million since 1987.
During the 1980s, spending increased 48 percent for toys and 118 percent for children’s books.
Thirty-two percent of all adults say that their parents did not read books to them when they were young.
Women buy 79 percent of all children’s books.