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Maria's Comet by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Deborah Lanino; $16, Atheneum -- The illustrations are stunning and the story well-told in this picture book very loosely inspired by the life of Maria Mitchell, America's first woman astronomer. And while it may truly awaken an interest in astronomy in young readers and even inspire girls to venture into new directions, it's certainly instructive that the real Maria Mitchell, unlike this Maria, grew up in a family where both boys and girls were encouraged to study science, math and astronomy. This information appears with a glossary of astronomy terms in a note at the end.

Knock at the Door and Other Baby Action Rhymes, Kay Chorao; Dutton, $15.99 -- The queen of picture books for little ones offers a pretty and amusing picture book of action rhymes, with easy-to-follow diagrams for the hand movements. Included are familiar rhymes ("Pat-a-Cake" and "This Little Piggy" and lesser-known ones ("Bunnies' Bedtime" and "Slowly Slowly"). -- Jean Westmoore
Safe House, by Andrew Vachss; Vintage Crime, $12 -- In this scorching thriller, Vachss's hero. Burke, is drawn into one of his ugliest cases, one involving an underground of abused women and the stalkers who have made the victims their quarry.

The Devil's Backbone, by Robert Greer; Warner, $6.99 -- All bail bondsman C.J. Floyd had to do was enter the Colorado Diamond Breaks wilderness and bring back a fireworks-pusher named Bobby Two Shirts. -- Ed Kelly

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