Ages 3-7: Swim the Silver Sea, Joshie Otter, by Nancy White Carlstrom, illustrated by Ken Kuroi, Philomel, $14.95.
No matter how far you travel, the sound of home will call you back. This familiar premise is set to soothing rhythms that lap against the ear like gentle waves. Joshie is so intent on finding someone to play with that he swims far out to sea and is lost. But he is rescued by "the strong safe voice of his mama." Kuroi's pencil illustrations are appropriately soft, and colored like Easter eggs.
Ages 4-8: Chin Yu Min and the Ginger Cat, by Jennifer Armstrong, illustrated by Mary Grandpre, Crown, $15.
A rich, haughty woman loses her husband, and turns bitter in her poverty. Fortunately, she meets a ginger cat who knows how to catch fish. The two make a happy alliance until the cat is accidentally taken away, and the woman must go in search of him, learning a lesson in humility. The tale is decidedly pre-feminist, but the telling is graceful and stylish. Grandpre's illustrating debut shows remarkable confidence, energy and wit.
Ages 4-10: The Fire Children, by Eric Maddern, pictures by Frane Lessac, Dial, $14.50.
This West African creation tale explains how people were created by Aso Yaa and Kwaku Ananse, two mischievous children of the sky-god Nyame. They create figures out of clay, but bake some longer than others, which explains why humans come in different colors. It is interesting to compare this myth to the Judeo-Christian creation story, both for the parallels and the contrasts. The tale is plainly told, and the illustrations are primitive and colorful.
Ages 9-up: The Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde, illustrated by Michael Hague, Henry Holt, $19.95.