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After fire, a forest reborn; A Forest is Reborn, by James R. Newton, illustrated by Susan Bonners. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell. 28 pp. $8.50.

Lightening strikes. In a matter of minutes, a forest is consumed with fire, and the once flourishing area is left charred and desolate. But this is not the finale, but the beginning. Here is a good introduction to forest ecology for young learners. Set in the Cascade Range in the Pacific Northwest, but representative of almost any forest in the world, ''A Forest is Reborn'' explains the orderly process of forest renewal through plant succession and animal activity.

In poetic fashion, the forest fire is described as dancing about and licking the leaves. Then simple language explains the rebirth of different forest species. Drawings of plants, flowers, and seeds accompany the descriptions. Yet these and other charcoal drawings found on every page lack vibrancy of color and immediate clarity of understanding.

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Although Smokey the Bear has made it abundantly clear that careless forest fires can be calamitous, this book reveals one interesting fact: the lodgepole pine actually relies on fire to grow. ''Without the heat of the blaze, many of the sticky cones from the parent lodgepole pine might never have opened to release their seeds.'' So forest fires set by natural causes like lightening can also serve a good purpose.

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