Akimbo and the Elephants by Alexander McCall Smith, illustrated by LeUyen Pham (Bloomsbury Press, 68 pages, $9.95). Ages 8 to 10. The young son of a ranger at a game preserve takes on a mission to stop elephant poachers in this simple book for young readers from the author of the best-selling Ladies Detective Agency novels. While the story is interesting enough, the writing is a bit wooden, and it's hard to believe that a hard-bitten elephant poacher would allow a young stranger along on the hunt.
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Hula Lullaby by Erin Eitter Kono (Little Brown, $15.99). A little child is rocked to sleep by the hypnotic chants of the hula in this irresistible melodic Hawaiian lullaby with gorgeous, colorful paintings. ("Come little keiki/dream sweetly in my lap. Listen to the ipu/Thump tap thump-a tap.")
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Alpha Bravo Charlie: The Military Alphabet by Chris L. Demarest (Margaret K. McElderry Books, $16.95). Ages 6 to 10. Demarest has cornered the market on action-packed alphabet books for kids. This colorful alphabet book teaches the International Communications Alphabet used ,2.1i by the U.S. military and civil aviation, complete with the signal flags created by the U.S. Navy to give each letter a color-coded shape. Along with each letter and flag on the page is a dramatic detailed illustration of some aspect of the military, from A, for an A-4 Skyhawk landing on an aircraft carrier to Z, for zoom, as a jet is launched off the flight deck.
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Soon Baboon Soon by Dave Horowitz (G.P. Putnam's, $14.99). Horowitz has a very funny book here, with a joyful parade of primates armed with drums and gongs and trying to play as a band ("orangutans bang everything, gorilla's got a gong.") The best line may be: "wait, primate, wait." Small children will love this lively, fun story of monkeys making music.
-- Jean Westmoore