Summertime, and the reading is easy

BOOKS FOR KIDS

July 23, 1993|By Molly Dunham Glassman | Molly Dunham Glassman,Staff Writer

Comic books have gone the way of baseball cards. Kids collect them and closet them away -- in mint condition, please -- as an investment, rarely taking time to enjoy them.

So what's left for easy summer reading? Try a few of the following paperbacks. They're written by talented authors, they make for light reading -- the longest is 87 pages -- and it doesn't matter if they get dog-eared and worn.

* Children just learning to read can feel quite accomplished when they finish "Three Wishes" by Harriet Ziefert, pictures by David Jacobson (Puffin, $3.50, ages 4-8). It's one in Puffin's Hello Reading series, which features stories with lots of word repetition and pictures to help readers along.

"Three Wishes," arranged in three quick chapters, stars a boy of about 5. "I want to be boss of the kitchen," he says, "and eat just how I want. I'll sit at the head of the table. I'll begin with raisins and peanuts. I'll end with French fries and pizza."

OK, so it's not "Anna Karenina." It's certainly a lot easier to get to the end.

* Early readers can graduate to "Henry and Mudge and the Forever Sea" by Cynthia Rylant, pictures by Sucie Stevenson (Aladdin, $3.95, ages 4-8. This is the sixth installment in the adventures of Henry, who is 4 or 5, and his 180-pound dog Mudge.

Henry, Mudge and Henry's father spend a day at the beach, playing in the waves, eating hot dogs, building a sand castle, chasing sand crabs and slurping cherry sno-cones. Ms. Rylant has written two Caldecott Honor Books -- "The Relatives Came" and "When I Was Young in the Mountains" -- and she brings a deft touch to The Henry and Mudge series.

* Another fine series is the "I Can Read Book" line published by HarperCollins ($3.50, ages 4-8). The first was "Little Bear," by Else Holmelund Minarik, illustrated by Maurice Sendak, and it's hard to go wrong with any of the more than 200 titles in the series.

Recent releases and/or re-releases to check out include "A Bargain for Frances" by Russell Hoban, pictures by Lillian Hoban; "Danny and the Dinosaur" by Syd Hoff; and "Chang's Paper Pony" by Eleanor Coerr, pictures by Deborah Kogan Ray. "Chang's Paper Pony," about a Chinese boy working for miners in California in the 1850s, helps introduce kids to the hardships immigrants endured.

* Last year Random House started its "First Stepping Stone" series for ages 6-9 ($2.99 each), and it looks like a winner. Barbara Park, who has won various children's choice awards for "Skinnybones" and "Beanpole" and several other books, has a series about Junie B. Jones, a headstrong 5-year-old.

In "Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus," Junie B. doesn't want to ride the school bus home after her first day in kindergarten. So she hides under the teacher's desk as the rest of the kids are filing out of the classroom at the end of the day. The teacher and principal don't discover her hiding place, and after everyone leaves, Junie B. has great fun exploring the school.

Mary Pope Osborne, another accomplished author, has written The Magic Tree House series. In book one, "Dinosaurs Before Dark," Jack, 8 1/2 , and his sister Annie, 7, discover the tree house that takes them back in time. During their visit to the Cretaceous period, 65 million years back, they befriend a "pteranodon" and escape a Tyrannosaurus rex.

* Kids (and adults) who enjoyed the picture book "Storm in the Night," will be glad to find that author Mary Stolz and illustrator Pat Cummings have teamed up on another book about Thomas and his grandfather, "Go Fish" (Harper Trophy, $3.95, ages 7-11).

This is great as a read-aloud, or for kids who are reading on their own. Thomas, 8, and Grandfather live together on Florida's gulf coast. Theirs is a close, realistic relationship -- we see it as they go about their daily chores, and we see it when they sit together on the porch for another of Grandfather's stories.

Many times the stories are African tales passed down from Grandfather's great-great grandfather, who was taken as a slave from his home in Benin. As the book closes, Thomas is in bed, picturing himself as an old man telling the same stories to his grandchild.

The sequel isn't out in paperback yet, but it's worth the investment in hardcover: "Stealing Home" (HarperCollins, $14, ages 8-12).

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