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FOR YOUNG READERS

For Young Readers: 'A Small Surprise,' Animals Up Close,'When You Reach Me'

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A SMALL SURPRISE

By Louise Yates

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Knopf. $16.99. Ages 3-6

On the endpapers of this amiable ode to determination, an itinerant rabbit eyes a circus poster sporting the words "Jobs Available." Cut to the big top, where little rabbit, having chosen to ignore the fine print ("small animals need not apply"), finds himself surrounded by a bevy of large and fearsome creatures. Undaunted, he bravely extracts an umbrella, a pair of oversize shoes and a clown nose from his red polka-dot bag. "I am too small to wipe my own nose," he admits, whereupon the large green snake helps him burnish his round red proboscis. "I am too small to tie my own shoes," he acknowledges. The fez-wearing monkey's giant hands make delicate work of this task. "I am too small to walk far," he continues, wobbling along the high wire, but when the inevitable happens, the rhinoceros deftly catches both nose and umbrella while our diminutive hero hangs on for dear life. Still, there's one thing rabbit is just the right size for: disappearing -- inside the monkey's hat, inside the lion's mouth and inside the snake's . . . um . . . neck. But not to worry, he always happily -- and occasionally explosively -- reappears until his final trick leaves the other animals scratching their furry, knobby, scaly heads. The fun is in the contrast between the large animals' exaggerated mugging and the little bunny's blithe insouciance. It just goes to show that -- contemporary cliches about villages raising children aside -- it takes a lion, a giraffe, a bear, a gorilla, a rhinoceros and a "seriously savage" snake to raise a rabbit.

-- Kristi Jemtegaard

ANIMALS UP CLOSE

By Igor Siwanowicz

DK. $19.99. Age 8 and up

Staying away from the familiarly fluffy and cute, "Animals Up Close" features creatures that are little enough to hold in your hands but better examined through these strange and beautiful images. The burrowing owl might bite a finger off, a grass snake might release a terrible odor, and others, like the golden-headed lion tamarin, just need to have their shrinking habitats protected. Photographer Igor Siwanowicz brings out the details of each animal's exterior, and the accompanying text explains how these attributes are "nature's solutions" to living not large but small. Each spread spotlights a different animal, including water dwellers like the sea urchin, the axolotl and the stinging lionfish, alongside information about where and how each lives. The crested gecko on the cover, its moist red tongue flicking out at the reader, gets a typically informative treatment, covering everything from its rediscovery in 1994 to its remarkable eyelashlike growths and marbled eyes. Another striking spread shows the North African gecko from underneath, gripping a clear surface with its peculiar toes.

-- Abby McGanney Nolan


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