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Choices for children

In Clive Eats Alligators, written and illustrated by Alison Lester, seven children -- all very different from each other -- eat breakfast, play, shop, care for their pets, and have special treats. Cheerful double-spread illustrations show the individual children all engaged in the same activity, but in each illustration, one child is missing. Young readers will have fun figuring out who isn't there (is it Frank, Celeste, Nicky, Rosie, Tessa, Ernie, or Clive?) and predicting what the seventh child is doing. (Houghton Mifflin, $12.95, ages 3 to 7.)

That Olive!, written by Alice Schertle, is another guessing-game book. But this time it is a cat named Olive who is hiding from the reader, and her owner, Andy.

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At the bottom of each page is the refrain ``Andy cannot find Olive anywhere. Can you?'' And on the top of the next page, Olive's hiding place is revealed. Soon, however, Andy decides to turn the tables on Olive, and she is lured out of hiding!

Beautiful watercolor illustrations by Cindy Wheeler add depth and humor to Schertle's text. (Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, $10.25, ages 3 to 6.)

Animals also play an important role in Six Dogs, Twenty-Three Cats, Forty-Five Mice, and One Hundred Sixteen Spiders, written and illustrated by Mary Chalmers. Annie Tree lives in a little yellow house, and she knows the names of all her pets, except for two shy spiders who live in the teapot. All is well until Annie's friend Priscilla Wicket, who is not used to so many animals, comes for tea. But friendship and flexibility provide a way for Annie, Priscilla, and the 190 animals to spend time together happily. (Harper & Row, $10.95, ages 4 to 8.)

An abundance of children -- 26 in all -- keep Commander Ahab Flannery on his toes when he says goodbye to his family and sets off to sea in Flannery Row, written by Karen Ackerman and illustrated by Karen Ann Weinhaus. But Commander Flannery is not daunted by his large brood. He has set up a system so that not one child, from Ahab Jr. to Zack, is missed. Ackerman's lilting rhymes and Weinhaus's engaging illustrations are combined to produce a whimsical alphabet book. (Atlantic Monthly Press, $12.95, ages 3 to 8.)

In My Mother's Getting Married, written and illustrated by Joan Drescher, Katie likes things the way they are now -- ``just Mom and me.'' But in two weeks, everything will change. Katie's mother will marry Ben, and Katie's afraid she'll lose the special bond she has with her mother. Drescher's witty text and playful pictures create a thoughtful book about forming new families. (Dial, $10.95, ages 4 to 8.)

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