Yoko's World of Kindness: Golden Rules for a Happy Classroom by Rosemary Wells (Hyperion, $19.99, cover illustration by Rosemary Wells.) Ages 5 to 7. The world would be a better place if everyone followed the golden rules found in this book (about kindness, appreciating differences in people and the hurtful impact of teasing) from the incomparable Rosemary Wells, whose wisdom and gentle humor make these moral lessons entertaining and interesting. It is unfortunate, though, that Wells drew only the cover illustration; the interior illustrations by John Nez and Jody Wheeler are cute but lack the pizzaz of the droll facial expressions that characterize Wells' work.
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Slippers at School by Andrew Clements (illustrated by Janie Bynum, Dutton, $12.99). The popular author of middle-school novels offers another charming picture book about the dog Slippers. This time the dog hitches a ride to school with Laura and has all kinds of adventures. It's sweet and funny and will probably appeal to toddlers, as long as they can suspend their disbelief that a child would not notice the squirmy bulk of what looks like a rather substantial puppy in her backpack!
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The Trouble With Henry: A Tale of Walden Pond by Deborah O'Neal and Angela Westengraf (illustrated by S.D. Schindler, Candlewick Press, $16.99). S.D. Schindler's dazzling illustrations of Concord and Walden Pond are reason alone to invest in this interesting first children's book by two documentary producers about the philosopher-naturalist. It's beautifully written and offers a vivid picture of the Concord of Thoreau's day and the negative reception his views as a "troublesome rooster" elicited from his neighbors. Thoreau's statements in the book come from his own writings. Any picture book treatment of Thoreau is probably worthy, but weren't his peculiar ways rich enough material for a book without concocting a plot about a toothpick factory coming to Walden Pond? The D.B. Johnson "Henry" books from Houghton Mifflin seem to offer a more faithful representation of the man even though Thoreau is pictured as a bear. (It is interesting though, in the afterword to "The Trouble With Henry", to discover that Thoreau's last word was "moose.")
-- Jean Westmoore