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New Books

CHILDREN'S SELECTIONS

Angels Watching Over Me, adapted by Julia Durango, illustrated by Elisa Kleven (Simon & Schuster, $16.99). Ages 2 to 5. The African-American spiritual "All night, all day" is expanded in a beautifully poetic way ("Bird says sing, I hum a tune. Cloud floats by, a lace balloon.") into a lovely picture book, illustrated with Kleven's delicate and colorful paintings, of an African-American boy celebrating the glory of the universe.

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Today at the Bluebird Cafe by Deborah Ruddell, illustrated by Joan Rankin (Margaret K. McElderry Books, $15.99). Ages 4 to 10. In her first book for children, Ruddell offers 22 vivid poems that soar and swoop and beautifully capture the glorious variety of birds, whether she is celebrating the glorious red of the cardinal ("a ruby, a wagon, a flame from a dragon; crimson-vermilion, a sunset Brazilian . . .") or gently lampooning the great horned owl with "his regal air and his royal stare and his snug-fitting feather pants." This dazzling collection ends with the lovely "Penguin Lullaby": "We'll smooth your icy pillow/We'll keep you safe and dry. You'll dream about tomorrow, and in your dreams you'll fly." Rankin's delicate paintings are perfect.

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Christmas Remembered by Tomie DePaola (G.P. Putnam's, 87 pages, $19.99). For all ages. The author-illustrator of "The Clown of God," "Strega Nona" and Newbery Honor book "26 Fairmount Avenue" offers a sweetly nostalgic, entertaining ramble through his Christmases past, starting with 1937 and the Christmas Village with cotton snow his mother lovingly placed on the mantel over a fake fireplace in their apartment in Meriden, Conn.; to his years at Weston Priory in Vermont and the mysterious arrival of hoped-for bells one Christmas; to the elaborate forest of 80 small Christmas trees he erected in his San Francisco apartment years later. Younger readers will be most interested in his childhood memories including the thrill of his family's purchase of a television in 1947 and his job as a teenager at a candy store making ribbon candy and candy canes. Known for his colorful illustrations of sturdy human figures, DiPaolo offers here not figure drawings but glorious paintings of the visual beauties of Christmas: a winter scene, the massive TV, the fake fireplace, a pine with ornaments, the art supplies he got one year. He does include a lovely one of black robed monks in the priory chapel standing before the Madonna and child creche figures he created.

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So Sleepy Story by Uri Shulevitz (Farrar Straus Giroux, $16). A Caldecott Medal-winning illustrator offers mysterious and magical paintings of a nighttime world brought to life by music that drifts into the bedroom window of a sleeping child in this beguiling bedtime story with repetitive sing-song words.

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The Adventures of the Dish and the Spoon by Mini Grey (Alfred A. Knopf, $16.95). The cow jumped over the moon, but it was the dish running away with the spoon that inspired author-illustrator Mini Grey (creator of "Traction Man Is Here") to document what happened next in this hilarious story set in 20th century America, of a failed vaudeville act, spending splurges, hard times and a life of crime. Her bold, energetic illustrations are a marvel. (She depicts a pointed fork and two sharp knives as loan sharks.)

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Clever Ali by Nancy Farmer, illustrated by Gail de Marcken (Orchard Books, $17.99). The author of prize-winning Young Adult novels ("The House of Scorpions," "The Ear, the Eye and the Arm") offers a marvelous, old-fashioned story, set in Cairo, about a young boy who angers the Sultan by disobeying his father's commands in caring for a passenger pigeon and then must use his wits to save his father's life. Farmer based her tale on a true story, of an Egyptian ruler who had 600 pigeons deliver fresh cherries from Syria in silk bags in 1190. The lush illustrations are delightful.

-- Jean Westmoore

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