Birdwing, by Rafe Martin (Scholastic/Levine, $16.99; ages 12-up). At the end of the Grimms' "The Six Swans," the bewitched brothers regain human form, but the youngest is left with a wing. In an inspired riff, "Prince Freak" sets out to learn how he must live.
47, by Walter Mosley (Little, Brown, $16.99; ages 12-up). Forty-seven, the narrator, is both a slave boy on an antebellum Southern plantation and a time-traveling savior called High John the Conqueror. Outlandish, you say? No more so than slavery, says Mosley.
Mister Boots, by Carol Emshwiller (Viking, $15.99; ages 9-12). In pre-Depression-era California, young Bobby meets an injured man who is also a horse. But then, Bobby might also be a girl. A strange, sad, funny book, alive with subversive ideas.
Summer's End, by Audrey Couloumbis (Putnam, $16.99; ages 12-up). The saga of a family wrenched apart by the Vietnam War, as told by a highly unsentimental 13-year-old girl.
Swimming in the Monsoon Sea, by Shyam Selvadurai (Tundra, $18.95; ages 13-up). A coming-of-age and a coming-out story set in Colombo, Sri Lanka, circa 1980. Fourteen-year-old Amrith's role in a school production of "Othello" helps him plumb the "black mood [that had] swept over him like a wave."
Four Hens and a Rooster, by Lena and Olof Landstrom, translated from the Swedish by Joan Sandin (R&S, $16; age 4-8). Four large, meek hens share a chicken yard with a small, despotic rooster. Then the ladies take a self-esteem course. Chick lit with a vengeance.
In the Small, Small Night, by Jane Kurtz, illustrated by Rachel Isadora (Greenwillow/ Amistad, $16.99; ages 4-8). In the wee hours of a Ghanaian family's first night in America, a girl comforts her forlorn little brother with colorful folktales from home.
So Happy! by Kevin Henkes, illustrated by Anita Lobel (Greenwillow, $15.99; ages 2-5). A seed can't grow for lack of rain. A rabbit gets lost. A little boy is bored. Then the rain comes and sets all three plots in joyous motion. As for Lobel's art, think Van Gogh in New Mexico.
Tales Told in Tents: Stories from Central Asia, by Sally Pomme Clayton, illustrated by Sophie Herxheimer (Frances Lincoln, $16.95; ages 5-up). "At the end of a twisting passageway, in the city of old Herat, was a tiny carpet shop. It smelled of wool." The opening of "The Carpet of Dreams," from Afghanistan, sums up the allure of these wonderful stories from the "stans."
Zen Shorts, by Jon J. Muth (Scholastic, $16.95; ages 4-up). One morning, a Japanese paper umbrella brings a giant panda floating down into three kids' backyard. And those "Zen shorts" he wears to go swimming? They're also the Buddhist tales he lives by.
and a Book of Verse
Runny Babbit: A Billy Sook, by Shel Silverstein (HarperCollins, $17.99; all ages). An Everyrabbit's adventures are rendered hilarious and weirdly profound by the simple device of transposing words' initial letters. For my money, the kids' yook of the bear.