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Pages of Color and Melody

An array of books - featuring subjects from composers at work to bunnies falling in paintpots - brings music and art alive for young readers

WHITE RABBIT'S COLOR BOOK Written and illustrated by Alan Baker; Kingfisher, $7.95 Ages 3 and under MOONY B. FINCH, THE FASTEST DRAW IN THE WEST Written and illustrated by David McPhail; Artists & Writers Guild Books $12.95, ages 3 to 7 THE BOY WHO DREW CATS Retold by Arthur A. Levine Paintings by Frederic Clement; Dial, $16, ages 5 and up THE GENTLEMAN AND THE KITCHEN MAID By Diane Stanley Illustrated by Dennis Nolan; Dial, $14.99, ages 5 to 8 MY MAMA SINGS By Jeanne Whitehouse Peterson Illustrated by Sandra Speidel; HarperCollins, $15 Ages 4 to 8 MAX FOUND TWO STICKS Written and illustrated by Brian Pinkney; Simon & Schuster, $15 Ages 4 to 8 PIANNA By Mary Lyn Ray Illustrated by Bobbie Henba; Harcourt Brace, $14.95 Ages 4 to 8 BEETHOVEN LIVES UPSTAIRS By Barbara Nichol Illustrated by Scott Cameron; Orchard, $15.95 Ages 5 to 8 ROY LICHTENSTEIN: THE ARTIST AT WORK By Lou Ann Walker Photographs by Michael Abramson; Lodestar/Dutton, 42 pp., $15.99 Ages 8 to 12 THE PAINTER'S EYE: LEARNING TO LOOK AT CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN ART By Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan; Delacorte, 96 pp. $9.95 paper, ages 10 and up PAINT AND PAINTING; Scholastic, 48 pp., $19.95 Ages 8 and up MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS; Scholastic, 46 pp., $19.95 Ages 8 and up LITTLE LOUIS AND THE JAZZ BAND: THE STORY OF LOUIS ``SATCHMO'' ARMSTRONG By Angela Shelf Medearis Illustrated by Anna Rich; Lodestar/Dutton, 42 pp., $13.99 Ages 8 to 11

ALTHOUGH the start of a new school year means plenty of required reading, budding young artists and musicians may find inspiration in several recent books designed to entertain as well as educate.

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Preschool Books

Part of a four-book series written and illustrated by Alan Baker, White Rabbit's Color Book introduces toddlers to the delight of mixing colors. A cunning bunny jumps from paintpot to paintpot, changing the color of her coat. From yellow to red, she turns orange; from red to blue, she turns purple. Finally, green and red together transform white rabbit into a brown bunny.

Picture Books

An art fantasy comes true in Moony B. Finch, the Fastest Draw in the West, written and illustrated by David McPhail. Young Moony sketches with a magic pencil that makes his art pop to life with a touch of his hand and vanish as quickly with a rub of the eraser. Moony draws himself into an adventure on an old-fashioned passenger train, complete with a gun-toting robber. Soft, watercolor vignettes reflect Moony's quiet dignity as he wryly controls his art and apotentially dangerous holdup.

Arthur A. Levine retells an art-coming-to-life story in the ancient Japanese legend The Boy Who Drew Cats. Kenji is the son of a poverty-stricken mother who leaves him at the village monastery where his artistic talent garners respect from a young monk but angers an older one. When Kenji is unjustly sent away, the young monk tells him a secret, which - along with Kenji's drawing ability - saves his life and liberates a fearful countryside. Exquisite acrylic illustrations by Frric Clement and beautifully designed pages reminiscent of Japanese screens make this a breath-taking book.

Set in a present-day art museum, The Gentleman and the Kitchen Maid, by Diane Stanley, introduces readers to the imaginary life of paintings. Two Dutch paintings - ``Portrait of a Young Gentleman'' and ``The Kitchen Maid'' - have fallen in love with each other. A sensitive young art student who notices their glances finds a way to unite the two in this charming story. Illustrator Dennis Nolan adds artistic appeal by creating Old Master look-alike paintings on every page.

My Mama Sings, by Jeanne Whitehouse Peterson, celebrates song-filled ups and downs in the life of a young black boy and his mother. Poetic lines and subtle rhythms describe their shared music. Speaking of soulful blues on a hot summer night, the boy says: ``Low and slow,/ the wavery tune/ smooths the warm sheets/ in my tiny room.'' Lush pastel illustrations by Sandra Speidel match the expressiveness of this story.

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Brian Pinkney has written and illustrated a read-aloud hit with Max Found Two Sticks. Colorful scratchboard drawings capture the urban energy of Max beating out rhythms in his neighborhood. Irresistible sound descriptions - ``A-cling-clang ... DA-BANGGGG!'' - in addition to a sweet story line make this a bound-to-be favorite for kids.

Set in turn-of-the-century New England, Pianna, by Mary Lyn Ray, follows the effect a piano has on the book's main character, Anna, throughout her life. Bobbie Henba's full-color spreads capture details of the early 1900s, making the illustrations as engaging as this nostalgic story.

Based on an award-winning recording, Beethoven Lives Upstairs, by Barbara Nichol, consists of fictional correspondence between 10-year-old Christoph and his uncle, a music student in Salzberg. At first Christoph is distressed and embarrassed by the eccentric ways of his family's new boarder, Ludwig van Beethoven. However, as Beethoven struggles to complete his Ninth Symphony, Christoph learns to appreciate the composer and his music. The exchange of letters contains many true incidents, giving readers poignant insights into Beethoven's tormented genius. Scott Cameron's oil paintings add rich and brooding images.

Informational Books

In Roy Lichtenstein: The Artist at Work, photographs by Michael Abramson and lively text by Lou Ann Walker create a fascinating and informative book about this contemporary artist. Taking a peek into his studio, readers will see how Lichtenstein creates the comic-strip-like paintings that have become cultural icons. Discussions of Lichtenstein's style and technique, as well as his reflections about art, make this a valuable book for modern art fans.

Newly reprinted in paperback, The Painter's Eye: Learning to Look at Contemporary American Art will be a welcome addition to any art lover's library. Authors Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan cover a wide range of topics - form, texture, and color, to name a few - giving art viewers valuable perspectives about contemporary works. Generously illustrated with reproductions of art and photos of many artists, this information-packed book is appropriate for young readers and researchers. Artists' biographies, a glossary, a list of paintings, suggestions for further reading, and an index add to this book's usefulness.

The first releases in Scholastic's glitzy new Voyages of Discovery series are out. These ambitious books whiz through time, taking readers from the beginning of man's knowledge about a specific subject up to present-day information. Paint and Painting covers the history of art from prehistoric cave painting to the modern art of Pollock, Picasso, and Warhol.

Musical Instruments describes such music-making devices as prehistoric bone flutes, Stradivarius violins, and computerized synthesizers. Scholastic's interactive novelty books have colorful pages with flaps, windows, stickers, and other gimmicks to keep readers engaged.

Little Louis and the Jazz Band: The Story of Louis ``Satchmo'' Armstrong, by Angela Shelf Medearis, gives young readers an accessible biography of this jazz great. Historical anecdotes and black-and-white photographs chronicle Armstrong's life from his early days in music-infused New Orleans to his hard-won success as a world-class musician. A timeline, end notes, suggestions for further reading, and an index make this a useful book for classroom or library.

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