Animals and Kids - A Winning Combination New Picture Books for Children Continue to Feature Furry Friends and Other Creatures as `Peter Rabbit' Keeps Hopping after 100 Years

Article excerpt

IT'S hard to visit the children's section of a book store or library this spring without being reminded that this is the 100th anniversary of Beatrix Potter's classic, "The Tale of Peter Rabbit." The lasting quality of her story is due, in large part, to Potter's exquisite watercolor illustrations and her child-sized format. But equally important is her understanding that animals and children are a winning combination.

This spring's authors and illustrators have capitalized on that phenomenon. Real or imaginary, the animals featured in these new releases are sure to engage both children and adults.

According to the Old Testament account, Noah loaded two of each animal aboard his ark to save them from drowning in a great flood. Author-illustrator Barbara Reid has crafted a captivating version of Noah's adventure in Two By Two (Scholastic Books, $14.95, ages 5 to 8). She uses stunning Plasticine bas-relief-sculpture illustrations and lively rhyming verses to re-create this familiar Bible story as a counting book, spiced with humor.

Veteran photographer and children's book author Bruce McMillan has created another winner with Mouse Views: What the Class Pet Saw (Holiday House, $15.95, ages 4 to 8). Bright, clear photographs of the class pet - a golden mouse on the loose - guide readers through the familiar world of school supplies and classroom objects, but the pencils, paper, and piano keys look strangely different from the mouse's perspective. The guessing-game format will surprise children with each turn of the page.

In the touching story of Pole Dog (Orchard, $14.95, ages 3 to 6), rich, full-color pastel drawings by David Soman balance the sparse rhyming text by Tres Seymour. Abandoned by its owners, "old dog, old dog, left by the telephone pole dog" loyally and patiently stays put, expecting to be retrieved. The dog's sad wait and final rescue by a different family teaches a valuable lesson about abandoned animals and what everyone can do to help.

Vibrant jewel-toned illustrations by Lisa Desimini bring to life the tropical setting of Fish and Flamingo, by Nancy White Carlstrom (Little, Brown, $14.95, ages 4 to 8). This is a tender friendship tale wherein the unlikely pairing of Fish and Flamingo enriches the life of each. …