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The best and brightest new children's books for every age and taste

For the very youngest of readers, Jan Ormerod has written four very special books -- Messy Baby, Reading, Dad's Back, and Sleeping (Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, 24 pp., $4.95 each, ages 6 to 24 months). In each book, Baby and Kitty are helping Dad. Ormerod's simple text captures the inquisitive, adventurous life of a toddler. New Shoes (Albert Whitman & Co., pages unnumbered, $9.75, ages 4 to 7), written by Dorothy Corey and illustrated by Dora Leder, is an absolutely delightful book about a little girl who wants new shoes. Any young child who has wanted, but not needed, something new will enjoy this book.

Grandma's House (Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, 32 pp., $13, ages 4 to 8), written by Elaine Moore and illustrated by Elise Primavera, is a gentle story about a little girl's annual summer visit to her grandmother's house. Primavera's evocative illustrations capture the unquestioning affection Grandma and Kim have for each other.

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Another very beautiful story about the friendship between a granddaughter and her grandmother is The Patchwork Quilt (Dial Books, 32 pp., $10.95, ages 4 to 8), written by Valerie Flournoy and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. Grandma, with Tanya's help, is making a masterpiece -- a quilt for her granddaughter. When the family looks at the finished quilt, they are amazed at how large and beautiful it has become. The poignancy and tenderness of Varleri Flournoy's story is captured in Jerry Pinkney's delicate illustrations.

In The Quilt Story (G. P. Putnam's Sons, pages unnumbered, $12.95, ages 4 to 7), by Tony Johnston, illustrated by Tomie DePaola, the continuity and comfort of Abigail's quilt is celebrated. If you look carefully at the illustrations, you'll notice that the vibrant colors of the quilt gradually fade to softer hues.

In her most recent ``Alfie'' book, An Evening at Alfie's (Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, 32 pp., $9.25, ages 3 to 6), author/illustrator Shirley Hughes shows what happens when a pipe bursts, and it starts ``raining'' in the hallway. Hughes realistically captures a young child's rather nonchalant reaction to an emergency.

Both children and adults will howl with laughter at the antics of Herbie Jones, a third grader in the Apples spelling group in Miss Pinkham's class. Suzy Kline's Herbie Jones (G. P. Putnam's Sons, 95 pp., $10.95, ages 7 to 10) is an absolute winner, and readers will enjoy the scrapes of Herbie and his best friend, Raymond.

Secret Moose (Greenwillow, 64 pp., $9.75, ages 8 to 10), by Jean Rogers, is a touching story about a young boy who finds and cares for a wounded moose cow. Rogers has written an intriguing book about life in Alaska and a young boy's cautious care for a trusting yet wild animal.

Millie, the main character of Millie Cooper, 3B (Dutton, 80 pp., $9.95, ages 7 to 11) thinks that a Reynolds Rocket ballpoint pen will help her get 100 percent on spelling tests and write her ``Why I am Special'' composition. Instead, she learns that she is important, not because she has a special pen, but because of who she is. In this book, Charlotte Herman successfully conveys the hopes and feelings of a shy, sensitive young girl.

In Sarah, Plain and Tall (Harper & Row, 58 pp., $8.95, ages 8 to 11) by Patricia MacLachlan, Anna and Caleb's papa has advertised for a new wife. When Sarah arrives, wearing a yellow bonnet, she brings her cat, a strong, independent spirit, and her love for the sea. A heartwarming book about love and family.

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The irrepressible, humorous Anastasia Krupnik is back in Anastasia on Her Own (Houghton Mifflin, 131 pp., $10.95, ages 8 to 11) by Lois Lowry. When Mrs. Krupnik goes on a business trip for a couple of weeks, Anastasia and her father find out that keeping house is not at all as easy as they think. Though not as good as others in the Anastasia series, this book is still a fun one that children will enjoy.

The Runner (Atheneum, 181 pp., $11.95, 12 and up), by Cynthia Voight, is another book about the Tillerman family. This story, however, is not about Dicey and her siblings. It is about Bullet, Dicey's uncle, who was killed in the Vietnam war. Voight's writing is quite good, but the impact of the book will be diminished if the reader has read Voight's other novels about the Tillermans.

Virginia Hamilton's most recent book, Junius Over Far (Harper & Row, 274 pp., $12.50, 12 and up), is one of her most accessible. Junius, tenderly raised by his grandfather, loves the stories and the language of the island of his grandfather's childhood. When Grandfather returns to the family estate on the island, he encounters problems with a distant relative. Junius and his father rush down to rescue him. A sensitive story about the love of a boy for his grandfather.

The dragon princess Shimmer and her human companion Thorn were first introduced in Laurence Yep's ``Dragon of the Lost Sea'' (Harper & Row). Dragon Steel (Harper & Row, 276 pp., $12.50, 12 and up), its sequel, continues the swashbuckling adventure of this daring duo. Although ``Dragon Steel'' can be read on its own, the story is richer and more coherent if ``Dragon of the Lost Sea'' is read first.

Erica Timperley is a city girl and a motorcycle buff. When Erica's mother ``surprises'' her with a holiday in the country, she is sure that the summer is ruined. However, when she meets Elsie Wainwright, mechanic and fellow motorcycle buff, Erica's vacation takes on a new twist. In Handles (Atheneum, 162 pp., $12.95, 12 and up), author Jan Mark writes with humor and wry insight about growing up.

Lisa Lane reviews children's books for the Monitor.

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