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Introductory nature books

BEGINNING readers who like to explore neighborhood creeks and go on occasional outings to the zoo ought to enjoy several introductory nature books. Who Lives in ... the Forest? and Who Lives in ... Alligator Swamp? (Dodd, Mead, New York, $9.95 hard-cover, $3.95 paperback, 32 pp., ages 3 to 7) are the first in a new series for preschoolers. Wildlife biologists Ron Hirschi and Galen Burrell, who collaborated in last spring's exemplary ``City Geese,'' give youngsters a close-up look at two distinct habitats with big-type descriptions and more than 30 color photographs per book. There's a quiet, caring tone in both books, and they also include afterwords for ``parents and teachers, big brothers and sisters,'' reminding them of the need to teach the very young about how fragile these special places are.

Another duo takes a more whimsical approach in introducing youngsters to unfamiliar animals from faraway lands. Whose Scaly Tail? and Whose Furry Nose? (Harper & Row, New York, $11.95, 40 pp., ages 3 to 7), by award-winning Danish author-illustrator Henrik Drescher, are written in an appealing question-and-answer format with equally entertaining cartoony drawings. ``Whose leaping legs?'' comes the question as a pair of brown hoofs springs out of sight. ``A wallaby's,'' comes the reply as we turn the page.

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Seven African creatures and seven from Australia appear in all their fuzzy glory, and each book concludes with a paragraph of approachable facts about numbats, koalas, pangolins, aardvarks, and the like.

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