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Lost mittens ... and a twist on Cinderella

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NOTHING delights and tickles young readers more than stories of mischief and the outrageous. In Runaway Mittens, by Jean Rogers, illustrated by Rie Munoz (Greenwillow, New York, $11.95, unpaged, ages 3 to 6), a young Alaskan boy named Pica just can't seem to keep track of his new mittens, a gift from his grandmother. The mischievous mittens appear to have a mind of their own as they disappear whenever Pica needs them.

Rie Munoz, a longtime native of Alaska, has illustrated Pica's world in bold and bright watercolors that contrast dramatically with the snowy background. Although ``Runaway Mittens'' does not have a terribly inventive story line, it's refreshing to have an authentic depiction of Alaskan life.

In Tumbledown, by Paul Rogers, illustrated by Robin Bell Corfield (Atheneum, New York, $12.95, unpaged, ages 4 to 7), mischief turns into all-out slapstick. The village of Tumbledown, not exactly a typically staid English village, is a place ``where nobody bothers when things go wrong and nothing is ever fixed.''

But a prince is coming! The villagers paint and mend the village, but they forget one spot - and the village retains its dubious name. The watercolor illustrations, almost impressionistic in style, depict the village with great detail. It's too bad, though, that the humor goes too far and becomes heavy handed.

Prince Cinders, written and illustrated by Babette Cole (G.P. Putnam's Sons, New York, $12.95, unpaged, ages 5 and up), is a time-honored fairy tale turned upside down. Cole, creator of ``The Trouble With Gran'' and ``The Trouble With Dad,'' has transformed Cinderella into a modern-day Prince Cinders, who is tormented by his ``three big hairy brothers.'' But a fairy arrives via the chimney and gives him a car (skateboard size) and a suit (a swimsuit) and makes him big and hairy (he's a monkey now).

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