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BOOK REVIEWS: The young library: Distinctive animals

Reviews of new books for children and young adults:

"Who's Hiding?" by Satoru Onishi; Kane/Miller ($14.95), ages up to 4

Hours of fun await toddlers and their grown-ups who get between the covers of "Who's Hiding?" by Satoru Onishi. There's no story. Instead, Onishi takes basic shapes and simple lines to create 18 animals in distinctive shapes. They appear in rich colors on a white background spread across facing pages in three rows of six. Each creature perches above its name - rhino, lion, kangaroo, giraffe, elephant, rabbit.

By manipulating facial features or changing the background color, Onishi creates clever picture puzzles. Each one begins with a simple question, asking readers to find who's backward, who's crying or who has horns. Some answers are easy. For others, readers will need to look closely to find who's missing or who's angry. Youngsters will want to test themselves again and again until they master the animals and the answers. Grown-ups will appreciate the book's final page with the answers.

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"That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown" by Cressida Cowell; Hyperion ($17), ages 3-7

Emily Brown calls her floppy gray rabbit Stanley. They are constant companions, and they are planning a trip into outer space. Just as they start up the launch ramp in the kitchen, there's a knock at the door. It's a representative of the Queen with a request for Emily to swap Stanley for a new - stiff - teddy bear.

"This rabbit is not for sale," Emily states as she closes the door on the Queen's emissary. Emily rejects several more outrageous offers before the Queen sends in "commandos" to kidnap Stanley. That makes Emily cross, and she marches off to the palace to confront the "naughty" Queen. Emily's especially upset when she sees what the Queen's done to Stanley. Instead of having a tantrum, Emily takes pity on the Queen and whispers the secret to making the teddy bear her own best friend.

Youngsters will relish repeated readings of this engaging tale about a smart, self-assured character. They'll also pore over Neal Layton's zany artwork. His action-packed drawings capture every emotion. It's curious how much Emily's flop-eared bunny on the book jacket resembles Mo Willems' "Knuffle Bunny." Inside, however, it's clear Stanley is the older and wiser cottontail.

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"Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Stuart Little" by Peggy Gifford; Schwartz & Wade/Random House ($12.99), age 8-12

Nine-year-old Moxy Maxwell's last day of summer is not ending the way she had planned. Despite carrying "Stuart Little" around everywhere, she hadn't read it, and tomorrow fourth grade starts with a quiz on the book.

Gifford gives young readers a smart, funny portrait of a youngster who's just too busy practicing water ballet and coping with interruptions that wipe out the "in-betweens" (moments set aside to read). Those time thiefs include the house mongrel, siblings and inventions rolling about Moxy's head, such as a hammock that stops on command.

Young readers will appreciate the large type in Gifford's short chapters and the open pages with generous illustrations by Valorie Fisher.

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ON THE WEB

Fans of James Patterson and his "Maximum Ride" can help get books to children in need by visiting the author's Web site, www.maximumride.com. They can also anticipate that Patterson's next book, "Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports," due out next month, will not be the last one in the series. He promised another if his site received more than 1 million clicks; it's already beyond.

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HOT OFF THE PRESS

Teens looking for a good read will want "Books for the Teen Age 2007," just released by the New York Public Library. For its 78th edition, the librarians and teen critics selected about 750 fiction and nonfiction books only from 2006. For the first time, the 19-page annotated listing includes author interviews with Web sites and critiques by teen reviewers. The booklet is available at http://teenlink.npl.org, or by snail mail (no credit cards) with a form downloaded from the same site.

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