Monday, April 14, 2003

Children's books filled with fun
for Passover, Easter

By Samantha Critchell
The Associated Press

Chocolate bunnies and coconut macaroons come and go but children's books can last a lifetime. So, consider these sweet stories to fill up a youngster's Easter basket or to be hidden with the matzo:

Barnaby Bear and his pals at Academy Hill on Faraway Island are given an egg to care for as a test to see if they are ready for a class pet in Barnaby's Bunny (Scholastic, $12.95, ages 4-8) by Wendy Rouillard.

The youngsters show off their creativity in decorating their "pet" eggs; Barnaby's gets rabbit ears, Ellery the elephant makes an elk and Fancy Freda frog turns her egg into an equally fancy fish. They also learn lessons in responsibility and what it means to be counted on by your peers.

Daisy Duck's patience is tested as she helps her mother and aunt sit on the egg that holds her new baby sister or brother in Daisy and the Egg (Little, Brown, $6.99, ages 4-8), Jane Simmons' companion book to Come Along, Daisy.

At the end of a long day, though, Daisy realizes that Little Pip is worth the wait - even if he is a little funny looking.

Meanwhile, an egg has an unusual sitter in Little Bear's Egg (HarperCollins, $5.99, ages 2-4). The story by Else Holmelund Minarik and illustrated by David T. Wenzel puts Little Bear in charge of a soon-to-hatch egg when it falls out of its nest.

And since the mama in Mama Hen and Her Baby Chicks 1, 2, 3 (Little Simon, $14.95, ages 1-4) already has her babies, she lays little books and clucks while she's doing it!

Any young child who is still unfamiliar with all the goodies that usually are a part of the holiday will become enlightened after reading Easter Basket Surprise (Reader's Digest Publishing, $5.99, ages 2-6) by (the aptly named) Candy Crocker and illustrated by Dawn Apperly.

A brother and sister daydream about what their mother will be putting in their baskets. Easter eggs with colorful spots? Marshmallow chicks? A new hat, perhaps?

Readers get a hint about the gift before the book's characters: With a gentle tug, the cardboard cover lifts up to reveal a fuzzy friend.

Baby Bunny and Little Lamb (Little Simon, $4.99, ages 3-6) are notable for their cozy covers, too. Each has fuzzy ears with colorful gingham lining that protrude from the main part of the small board books.

The books maintain their playful themes in Poppy Wells' words and Summer Durantz's illustrations as the bunny and the lamb enjoy springtime games.

Happy Easter! (Little Simon, $5.99, ages 2-5) by Michelle Knudsen and illustrated by Salina Yoon shares with youngsters all there is to love about Easter. The rhyming story is filled with sweets, a shining sun and big fancy bonnets.

Passover books

In The Passover Seder (Scholastic, $9.99, ages 3-7), children can spin a paper plate to match pictures of the symbolic shank bone and bitter herb to their Hebrew names, and they can pretend to drop some wine to mark each of the 10 plagues with the help of a tipsy glass.

Unlike many children's Passover books that are simplified versions of the Haggadah, the story of the holiday that also acts as a step-by-step seder guide, Emily Sper's book is a precursor to the family gathering, explaining the customs that children will soon see.

Passover and all its foods and traditions are spelled out in P Is For Passover (Price Stern Sloan, $4.99, baby-preschool) by Tanya Lee Stone and illustrated by Margeaux Lucas. Kids and many parents will learn a variety of holiday-specific sights and sounds, ranging from A - for afikomen, the hidden matzo - to Zzzzz - the sleepy sound that comes from young children who can't make it through the entire seder.

Bunnies everywhere

Peter Rabbit, Peter Cottontail and the Easter Ribbit, an adorable frog who dons big bunny ears, help keep things jumping in Hop To It: A Scholastic Easter Treasure (Scholastic, $10.99, ages 4-8).

This collection of tales includes characters and drawings that will be familiar to both toddlers and the grown-ups who likely are doing the reading.

Somebunny Loves Me (Little Simon, $4.99, ages 2-5) by Joan Holub is a charming reminder that youngsters everywhere are loved, whether they are someone's "lamby-pie" or "puppy love."

But kind words from Mama and siblings Widdle, Waddle, Piddle and Puddle might not be enough to coax one little duckling into the pond in Little Quack (Simon & Schuster, $14.95, ages 2-6). Lauren Thompson's book cheers children to muster up their own courage to try new things and Derek Anderson's pictures illustrate the rewards.

Sammy isn't crazy about being cast as the flat Passover bread in his Hebrew class' play, but as No Matzoh for Me! (Grosset & Dunlap, $3.49, ages 2-7) unfolds, Sammy realizes how important the matzo is to the celebration and he relishes his starring role. Nancy Krulik's creative story and Bryan Hendrix's humorous illustrations also sneak in the historical background that young readers need to appreciate the holiday and the book.

Adrienne Yorinks' pictures based on antique quilts are a necessary tutorial to read Quack! (Abrams, $12.95, ages 4-8) since Arthur Yorinks' story is told almost entirely in "the international language of ducks."

There is a charm, though, to quacking out loud as readers follow a duck on his journey to the moon and back to Earth, into the arms of friends.

It's equally hard to resist Yummy Chocolate Bunny (Price Stern Sloan, $5.99, baby-preschool ) by Jocelyn Jamison and illustrated by Jui Ishida.

A little boy convinces himself with each bite of his bunny that the confection would look better if he could just even out the nibbles. In the end he's right - the brown bunny becomes a yellow marshmallow chick!

Seasonal treats

Some other seasonal treats include:

Oh, Ducky! A Chocolate Calamity (Chronicle, $15.95, ages 4-8) by David Slonim mixes a man's love for candy and his toy duck.

A bright-eyed yellow chick comes out of her shell in What's Hatching? (Grosset & Dunlap, $5.99, baby-preschool). She finds an exploration buddy in a little butterfly in Mara Conlon's story with pictures by Hala Wittwer.

A rabbit with some unusual tastes must have cooked up the menu in One Hungry Bunny! (Grosset & Dunlap, $5.99, baby-preschool) since Mara Conlon and Hala Wittwer's basket-shaped counting book features cabbage jellybeans and chocolate-dipped carrots.

The collective imagination of a gaggle of toddlers almost gets the best of the Rugrats' seder in A Pickles Passover (Simon Spotlight/Nickelodeon, $3.50, ages 4-8), but once chocolate matzo is served, everything else seems to fall into place.

Colorful Easter eggs squeeze everything else out of the refrigerator, except the ham and apple pie, of course, in Happy Easter, Everyone! (Simon Spotlight/Nick Jr., $5.99, ages 4-8) by Hopi Morton and illustrated by Robert Powers.

It takes Five Little Bunny Rabbits (Price Stern Sloan, $5.99, baby-preschool) to put together the best baskets to hand out to children on Easter morning. "That's what bunnies do!" according to the book by William Boniface and illustrator Lynn Adams.

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