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Michael Rosen's Sad Book by Michael Rosen and Quentin Blake (Candlewick Press, $16.99). All ages.

An award-winning author has written an unusual and powerful picture book about coping with grief -- surely a useful therapy tool for people of any age who are grappling with the loss of a loved one. The incomparable Quentin Blake contributed the expressive illustrations.

Cork & Fuzz by Dori Chaconas (illustrated by Lisa McCue, Viking Easy-to-Read, $13.99).

A new buddy story for beginning readers about a muskrat and possum has a quiet humor and simple charm that calls to mind Arnold Lobel's classic "Frog and Toad" series. McCue's expressive illustrations add to the fun.

The Bumblebee Queen by April Pulley Sayre (illustrated by Patricia J. Wynne, Charlesbridge, $14.95).

An acclaimed author and poet offers a simple, lyrical story about the life cycle of a bumblebee queen. (Extra information about the life of bees is included on each page.) The beautiful illustrations are by a well-known scientific illustrator.

Picasso and Minou by P.I. Maltbie (illustrated by Pau Estrada, Charlesbridge, $15.95).

This charming, beautifully written story is based on a true incident involving Pablo Picasso and his cat Minou, who did indeed bring the starving artist home a sausage (although the details of how the artist abandoned his Blue Period paintings for cheerier subjects are fabricated). The watercolor illustrations bring to life early 20th century Paris.

Stink, the Incredible Shrinking Kid by Megan McDonald (illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds, Candlewick Press, $12.99).

Ages 7 to 10. The author of the popular Judy Moody books devotes a book to Judy's long-suffering little brother Stink. (He brings home the classroom's newt and sister Judy loses him down the sink, for instance.) Stink's trials with his big sister call to mind Peter Hatcher and his battles with nightmare little brother Fudge in Judy Blume's books.

Waggle by Philemon Sturges (illustrated by Jim Ishikawa, Dutton, $16.99).

This irresistibly funny picture book explores the essence of dog and cat and their fierce rivalry and comes up with a most creative explanation of why canines sniff each other's rears to say hello. The playful, colorful illustrations are a riot.

-- Jean Westmoore