In yesterday's Around the Region column, meningococcemia, a type of meningitis caused by a bacterium, should have been identified as a more serious form of meningitis than viral meningitis. Both diseases are inflammations of the coverings of the brain.
Children of the Maya: A Guatemalan Indian Odyssey , by Brent Ashabranner; photographs by Paul Conklin (Dodd, Mead, $12.95; ages 10-up). Long ago the Mayans were among the most advanced civilizations on earth; but that was then and in recent years this people have suffered periodic depredations by the armies and government of Guatemala. Many thousands have fled their villages into Mexico. Some have reached the United States, and of these several hundred have been taken in by the little town of Indiantown, Florida. There Brent Ashabranner -- distinguished for his nonfiction about immigrants, American Indians, and children in crisis -- discovered this displaced people while at work on a study of migrant workers.
His new book not only focuses on how the Mayan children have adapted to American ways, but more importantly records their memories of village life in Guatemala and the testimony of their parents about the orejas (literally "ears," but figuratively stool pigeons), horrors, bombings, and raids in their homeland. As usual with Ashabranner, his book -- powerfully enhanced by Conklin's black and white photographs -- blends careful reporting with social conscience. The result is moving indeed.
Silly Goose; Just Like Me; Our Ollie; Young Joe , all by Jan Ormerod (Lothrop, Lee and Shepard, $4.95 each; ages 24-36 months). Books for very young children need strong images -- of animals, families, toys -- to keep a toddler intrigued; but they also need charm, whimsy or beauty of language to keep parents from becoming bored with pages they may have to look at a dozen times a day. This genre's Jane Austen, the ever-fresh Beatrix Potter, could provide not only good stories and winning pictures but also perfect sentences of compactness, simplicity, and power. Recently Jan Ormerod has been establishing herself as a contemporary master of the board book. Her previous series -- with titles like Reading and Sleeping -- depicts a father, a little boy, and a cat in various playful moods.
This latest quartet extends her range and should be pounced on by parents weary of Pat the Bunny.
Our Ollie, for instance, alternates colored drawings of a small boy with his animal counterparts. "Ollie sleeps like a cat" shows the pajamaed baby curled up on the left-hand page, while a black cat naps in the same position on the right-hand side. Ollie also yawns like a hippopatamus, sits like a frog, hugs like a bear. More subtly, when dressed for play Ollie is "red, blue, green and yellow like a parrot." Toddlers will enjoy the animals, and with some nudging by parents learn to see the parallelism.
Of the other books here, Young Joe is a counting primer -- from one fish to 10 puppies -- with a surprise ending (Joe picks one of the 10 puppies for his own). Just Like Me presents a 3-year-old describing a baby brother and Silly Goose captures the playful energy of a little girl who jumps like a kangaroo and parades like a peacock. Try one and you'll want them all.
Anastasia Has the Answers , by Lois Lowry (Houghton Mifflin, $12.95; ages 10-up). This latest in the misadventures of Anastasia Krupnik, now aged 13, opens with the death of Aunt Rose, killed "by one of the finest restaurants in Los Angeles." This upsets Anastasia, but not half so much as being unable to climb the rope in gym class.
While her parents are away at the funeral, our heroine decides to practice her climbing; she carefully stands on the family car's roof, loops some clothes line over a garage rafter, and is reaching for the loose end, when a shout rings out: "Anastasia, Stop! Suicide is never the answer." It is classmate Daphne, who imagines, for a moment, that weekly gymnastic embarrassment has brought her friend to this desperate pass. After this misunderstanding is cleared up, the two girls discover that nearly all the women in Anastasia's life need some new men friends -- the old baby sitter Mrs. Gertrude Stein, Daphne's divorced Mom, glamorous gym teacher Wilhelmina Willoughby. Of course Anastasia turns matchmaker.
The results, naturally, are hilarious and before Lois Lowry is through she will have carefully mingled various subplots involving widowed Uncle George, Anastasia's dislike for Johnny Tremain, and more rope-climbing into a delightful comic novel. All in all, another winner in this on-going series.
Imaginary Lands , edited by Robin McKinley (Greenwillow, $11.75; ages 10-up). Intended for young people, this anthology is one of the year's best collections of high fantasy -- the genre that embraces tales of swords and sorcery, damsels and dragons, faerie and forgotten civilizations, a genre built on a prose rich and passing strange. Listen to some first lines: "Strange things are said to have happened in this world -- some are said to be happening still -- but half of them, if I'm any judge, are lies" (James Blaylock's "Paper Dragons"); "The empire of Obanah is normally dated as having been founded at the Battle of Festulu when the first Ob, known as the World Elephant, overcame the army of the Nineteen Nations and thus finally subjugated the vast and varied tract of land between the Dead Lakes and the northern desert" (Peter Dickinson's "Flight"). Admittedly, one must have a taste for this sort of thing. For instance, Jane Yolen's Arthurian tale, "Evian Steel," enchants me with just its title. Other writers represented include Newbery-winner McKinley, Hugo-winner Joan D. Vinge, and World-Fantasy-award winner Patricia A. McKillip. In keeping with the collection's title, all the work here possesses a strong sense of place, whether real, imagined, or fabulous.
Bread and Jam for Frances , by Russell Hoban; pictures by Lillian Hoban (Harper/Trophy paperback, $2.95; ages 4-up). If this reviewer had to choose his 10 favorite picture books, one of them would be Russell Hoban's hilarious How Tom Beat Captain Najork and His Hired Sportsmen. Indeed, one could easily grow up on Hoban. The Frances books make delightful reading for 5-year-olds. The Ponders series -- especially the story of the depressed Jim Frog -- are perfect for 7-year-olds. Older kids will cherish The Mouse and His Child, while Riddley Walker -- Hoban's beautifully composed adult tale of a post-holocaust England -- already is something of a classic. In whatever he writes, Hoban offers perfect prose, a rather appealing melancholy, and offbeat humor.
In Bread and Jam for Frances, which first appeared in 1964, the heroine -- a young badger -- announces that she doesn't care for soft-boiled eggs, indeed only really likes to eat bread and jam. "Jam on bicuits, jam on toast, jam is the thing that I like most . . . Rasberry, strawberry, gooseberry, I'm very FOND . . . OF . . . JAM." Well, who isn't? But Frances gradually changes her little tune when she finds that she's given nothing for meals but bread and jam. In one bravura passage, Hoban describes Frances' friend Albert eating lunch -- and makes a sandwich of cream cheese with cucumbers and tomatoes on rye sound delicious (and maybe it is). A lovely book, especially for fussy eaters, with Lillian Hoban's drawings capturing just the right touch of innocent bewilderment in these badger toddlers.