The Voyage of Osiris: A Myth of Ancient Egypt, by Gerald McDermott (Windmill/Dutton, $8.95). A myth of life and death, of the restorative power of love and the mystery of the Nile - all stunningly illustrated in jewel-like color by McDermott. No question that the result is a work of art of the first order. There is, however, a question of how such art speaks to the four-to eight-year-olds it is supposedly created for. The complex unified quality of the illustrations and the almost elliptical language of the retelling make this a moot point; but underrating children is an all-too-common fault. Let the book's beauty give pleasure and speak to whom it may. (All ages)
Behind the Sealed Doer: The Discovery of the Tomb and Treasures of Tutankhamun, by Irene and Laurence Swinburne (Sniffen Court/Atheneum, $12.95). Myth dramatically becomes reality in this magnificently produced account of Howard Carter and his tenacious, meticulous uncovering of the tomb and treasures of an 18-year-old, not very important, Eyptian king, buried with some of the greatest art treasures of history. The tale is well told and unfolds like a suspense novel. The findings of each state are documented in exquisite color (black-and-white pictures fill in the actual moment of discovery.) The reader holds his breath as the last door is opened and cannot imagine how Carter had the discipline to close it and not return until the next season. The book is cleanly and simply put together and the overlay technique used to recreate the six layers of the coffin, mask and mummy of the young king is spectacular. The price of this kind of excellence is high, but so worth it to give a faithful idea of glories that so few can actually see in person. (Ages 8-14 and parents)
The Owl and the Pussy-Cat, by Edward Lear, illustrated by Gwen Fulton (Atheneum, $6.95). Some word-sequences are to the tongue what fine sand is to bare toes - sensuous, smooth, pleasurable without talking thought. The nonsense saga of the owl and the pussy cat is a joy to read aloud, almost addictive, in fact. So a new Owl and the Pussy-Cat is welcome among Lear lovers who can indulge themselves all over again in the name of parenthood. "Hand in hand on the edge of the sand" the elegant fowl and the beautiful pussy dance still, brightly and unaffectedly pictured by Gwen Fulton. (Ages 5-9).
Buccaneer, by Sophy Burnham (Warne, $6.95). This attractive novel has a curiously dated feel, like short skirts or hula hoops. One lonely girl and the untameable horse journey toward the time-honored confrontation and the happy ending. But you don't meet many fathers in children's books these days who dare to tear into 12-year-old girls for not behaving like ladies or brushing their hair or learning to sew, and this father is a little hard to believe in, even for a strait-laced lawyer. However, Julie's reactions to his lack of sympathy are genuinely moving and the fresh air of the Maryland horse country seems to have blown the fashionable cobwebs of decadence out of this novel, leaving a wholesome, likeable story. (Ages 9-12)
Go Saddle the Sea, by Joan Aiken (Doubleday, $7.95). A formidable action suspense novel, with carefully constructed historical background, set in early 19th century Spain and England. Felix Brooke, born under mysterious circumstances into an aristocratic Spanish family, runs away and sets off to England to look for his dead father's family. His progress is picaresque indeed, perhaps too many dramas not to strain the practical sense of young readers, but it's all very exciting and fast-moving if rather loosely strung together.Felix's adventures do serve to underline the fact that violence did not come into the lives of children with television - Spain at the time of Salamanca makes Gotham seem like Kensington Gardens. (Ages 11-14)
Growin', by Nikki Grimes, Pictures by Charles Lilly (Dial, $6.95). A simple but eventful narrative of a young black girl named Yolanda Jackson, known as "Pumpkin" or more often as "Pump": the death of her father; moving to a new neighborhood; new friends; dreams of writing; and getting in and out of trouble. Nikki Grimes has not written an ambitious or groundbreaking first novel, but she portrays warmly the growing friendship between Pump and a classmate named Jim Jim, and conveys a strong sense of living in a neighborhood, learning the good and bad sides of thosearound. (Ages 8-11)