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By Kristi Jemtegaard

Schools out! Summer's here! But now's not the time to forget your ABCs. Who knew the alphabet could have so many different personalities or be so much fun?

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In LMNO Peas (Beach Lane, $16.99; ages 3-6), Keith Baker unleashes those round green symbols of similarity from their pods and reveals their impish individuality. "We're gardeners, gigglers, givers and takers./We're hikers, inventors, and investigators." The rollicking rhyme continues apace as the little spheroids, in all kinds of get-ups, cavort atop, inside and underneath oversized capital letters. One intrepid green sleuth, for example, dons a deerstalker cap and trench coat as he treks, magnifying glass in hand, around and around the base of a giant H, circles the I and wanders off the page in search of clues. After one reading of this jolly romp, expect to hear choruses of "Pass the peas, please!"

Planning a trip to the country? Take along a copy of Arthur Geisert's latest offering, Country Road ABC (Houghton Mifflin, $17; ages 5-8). The subtitle is "An Illustrated Journey Through America's Farmland," and that's exactly what it is, in alphabetical order naturally. Bucolic describes Geisert's serene panoramas, each of which features a road passing by fields, farmhouses and barns. However, no gentlemanly gloss or nostalgic glow covers the muck and the mud, the rusted-out cars, the low-flying crop dusters, and the quicksand that sometimes lies beneath the corn field. These are all working farms. Careful eyes will sometimes spot a vehicle moving from one page to the next: A blue pickup with an oversized object in the bed turns down a side road and, on the following page, reappears beside a big red tractor with a flat rear tire. Expect some standard words -- M is for milking, P is for pigs -- as well as surprises -- I is for inoculate, V is for volunteer fire department. Like a leisurely drive down a tree-lined lane, this homage to a still vibrant part of our country invites repeated visits.

Maybe crowds, junk food and heart-stopping rides are more your style. Dip into A Fabulous Fair Alphabet, by Debra Frasier (Beach Lane, $16.99; ages 4-7), for a sneak peek: no tickets necessary. The author is something of a side-show aficionado, as well as a photo junkie. Having taken thousands of pictures of midway signs, she chose a few hundred to assemble into this alphabet-photo collage, a tribute to that most American of institutions: the country fair. The letters depict not only the hurly burly -- F is for Ferris wheel, R is for roller coaster -- but also the food -- L is for large lemonade, C is for cotton candy -- and the exhibits -- Q is for quilts, J is for judging. In addition to the single word, every page is also arrayed with extra letters (A has over 80, X over 100) to study and enjoy. And what is Z for? Why Zucchini, of course, and also for zzzzzzz . . . at the end of a very busy day.

Kristi Jemtegaard is a library manager for Arlington County.


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