PERHAPS THE most dreadful part of growing up is runnin out of time for imagining. Leading this week's roundup of new books for ages 5-9 are two that encourage kids to take off on their own flights of fancy.
* "I'm Flying," by Alan Wade, pictures of Petra Mathers (Alfred AKnopf, $13.95). This fantasy will charm older kids and grown-ups who daydream about making their nagging, everyday annoyances disappear.
A boy who lives in the suburbs receives a box of weatheballoons and a tank of helium from a friend. First he ties his math book to a balloon and watches all those problems float away. He soon launches everything he doesn't like, from his toothbrush to his teacher to his mother's piano.
"'Where the heck is everything disappearing to,'" my fatheshouted. He thought it was robbers. My mother thought is was the neighbors. No one guessed balloons."
Finally, the boy decides to sail away himself and see the worldTying 16 balloons to his lawn chair, he takes off. The flight is fantastic, and so is the surprise ending. Mathers' fanciful illustrations are filled with details to be discovered with each new reading. Definitely a keeper.
* "The Night Flight," by Joanne Ryder, illustrated by AmSchwartz (Picture Puffins, $3.95). Originally published by Four Winds Press five years ago, this is now a great bargain in paperback. Through Anna, kids get to share in the magic of a summer night in the city.
As she drifts off to sleep, Anna dreams of flying through heopen window. Soon she is floating "down past her sleeping house till her toes touched the cool, hard sidewalk." She flies over the flat rooftops of row houses and lands in her neighborhood park.
Suddenly Alexander, the old stone lion she climbed on earliethat day, comes to life. Anna leaps on his back and they explore an exotic jungle, where Anna has to duck because monkeys snatch at her hair. In the end, she wakes up in her bed with daylight streaming in the window. But she hasn't forgotten the secrets she learned on her night flight.
* "Sky All Around," by Anna Grossnickle Hines (Clarion, $13.95)Although the subject is the night sky, this book takes a more down-to-earth approach than the first two, which means parents probably will enjoy it even more than kids.
It's a fine book, nonetheless. A little girl of about 4 and her dad decide tonight will be a good night for watching the stars. With the luxury of living in a rural setting, they leave Mom and the baby at home and walk down the road to a spacious field.
Dad helps the little girl (and the readers) spot some of the more familiar constellations, but they also create their own star pictures. It's comforting to see a parent take time out to do some imagining, and maybe this book will inspire other grown-ups to do the same.
* "Walking to the Creek," by David Williams, illustrated by Thomas B. Allen (Alfred A. Knopf, $12.95). This is another book parents will like to share with kids, especially if they have any memories of adventuring around a farm when they were young.
Twin brothers are visiting their grandparents' farm, and they set off on a hike to the creek with Grandpa's two dogs, Teddi Sue and Sam. "They're the great-great-grandkids of the ones that lived here with Mom," the narrator says.
It's a simple story with an unobtrusive message about nature and preserving the environment, and Allen's pastels are the perfect accompaniment. "Past the bridge the mud bank is full of prints: raccoon, opossum, skunk, rabbit and deer. We see a place where more trees have been cut down and garbage has been dumped and burned. Piles of old tires lay scattered about."
This is Williams' first book. He is an accomplished folk singer, and his new album of funny animal songs for children has been very well-received. His "Oh, the Animals" tape is available for $11 (includes postage) from Trapdoor Records, P.O. Box 409, Sycamore, Ill. 61078.
* NEXT WEEK: Some newer books now available in paperback.