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Ancient Rome, by James Simon; Knopf, $13.95 -- Ancient Rome comes to life through the humdrum materials of everyday living -- buttons, coins, dice and earrings -- in this excellent latest installment in Knopf's "Eyewitness" series. The nuggets of text are interesting and the photographs and drawings well-displayed, as usual.

The Secret Keeper, by Gloria Whelan; Knopf, $12.95 -- A teen-age girl working as a "keeper," or baby sitter, for a boy at an exclusive resort stumbles onto a deadly secret in this suspenseful young-adult novel by the author of the funny picture book "A Week of Raccoons." The heroine is never quite sure whether she was really the next target or not, and the uncertainty adds to the delicious mystery of it all.

Tiddalick the Frog, by Susan Nunes, illustrations by Ju-Hong Chen; Atheneum, $13.95 -- A snake's dance saves the world from a drought caused by a giant frog in this charming retelling of an aborigine folk tale. The watercolors are marvelous.
-- Jean Westmoore