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CHILDREN'S BOOKS

 
Published March 28, 1999|Updated Sept. 29, 2005

THE ABSENT-MINDED FELLOW, by Samuel Marshak, translated by Richard Pevear, illustrated by Marc Rosenthal (Farrar Straus Giroux, $16).

For some people, getting dressed and getting to the train station is an ordeal. Such a fellow is the hero of Samuel Marshak's poem, written in Russia in the 1920s. He puts his pants on over his head, ties his shoes together and wears his landlady's cat instead of a hat. Pevear has translated Marshak's tale to a London locale, and Rosenthal adds a chaotic zaniness to the shenanigans. Ages 4-9.

BY A BLAZING BLUE SEA, by S.T. Garne, illustrated by Lori Lohstoeter (Gulliver Books, $16).

Like his One White Sail, Garne shows his love of the simple life in the Caribbean islands. Connecticut resident Lohstoeter seems to have the same understanding of island life. The wrinkled old fisherman in this rhyme has no need for the luxuries the rest of the world strives for. He's content in his paradise with his parrot and cat. The deep blues of ocean and sky are lush and lulling. Ages 4-8.

ONCE I WAS, by Niki Clark Leopold, illustrated by Woodleigh Marx Hubbard (Putnam, $15.99).

As a child, growing up can be expressed in the simplest of terms: "Once I was an alphabet / now I am a book / Once I couldn't feed myself / now I love to cook." As an adult, watching your child grow brings on a plethora of emotions. To emphasize this celebration of change, Hubbard's illustrations are a riot of color, full of delightful surprises. Ages 3-7.

HAVING A WONDERFUL TIME, by Tom Pohrt (Farrar Straus Giroux, $16).

Young Eva and her cat Sam are a sophisticated pair of world travelers. Their travels through the desert with a camel named Cassis are the subject of this sumptuously elegant fantasy. Pohrt, who illustrated Barry Lopez's Crow and Weasel, shows an exquisite eye for detail and an understated sense of humor. Ages 4-10.

RAISEL'S RIDDLE, by Erica Silverman, illustrated by Susan Gaber (Farrar Straus Giroux, $16).

A lively retelling of the Cinderella story transports the familiar heroine to a Jewish community in a traditional Polish village. Her Prince Charming is the rabbi's son, and, instead of leaving a glass slipper at the ball, Raisel goes to a Purim celebration and beguiles the rabbi's son with a scholarly riddle that she learned from her wise grandfather. The true subject of this version is the value of learning; it's a rare story that gives praise to a woman's intelligence over her beauty. Ages 4-10.

GOWANUS DOGS, by Jonathan Frost (Farrar Straus Giroux, $15).

The black-and-white etchings of a Brooklyn industrial canal seem bleak compared to most picture book fare, but that's just the point. Frost captures the compassion and coldness that co-exist in a modern city, following the story of a man living in a cardboard box who befriends a family of homeless dogs. In his first picture book, Frost shows great promise both as a writer and artist. Ages 5-up.

Michael Maschinot's Children's Books column appears monthly.