(3 of 5)
What could be more gratifying to kindergartners than correcting their teacher's "mistakes"? When Mrs. Millie tells her charges to hang up their goats and get out their paper and penguins, they loudly and gleefully put her right, as little readers surely will too. ("We know what you mean," the kindergartners yell.) Half the fun comes from seeing Mrs. Millie's misnomers made literal in Mathieu's drawings. One depicts a perplexed primate who finds himself serving as filler in a "gorilla cheese sandwich"; another shows the indignant weasel on whom the kids happily daub their paintings. As the school day ends, the kids have a snack of parrot sticks and quackers, then say butterfly and get on the octopus to ride home. Cox, herself a kindergarten teacher, knows that more than contusion reigns when 4- and 5-year-olds are teased into sorting out sound-alike words. In fact, if you recognize how much verbal comprehension is conveyed by the jokes and see that Mrs. Millie is silly like a fox, go to the head of the glass.
Marshall Cavendish; $14.95
DIARY OF A SPIDER By Doreen Cronin Pictures by Harry Bliss
Nothing like a diary to give you a glimpse of somebody's inner life. In this diverting follow-up to 2003's Diary of a Worm, also by Cronin and Bliss, Spider confesses his greatest fears--Daddy Longlegs, vacuum cleaners and people with big feet--and shares his grandpa's secret of longevity: Never fall asleep in a shoe. He talks about his unlikely friendship with Fly, whose forebears used to be the enemies of spiders. "Things are different now," says Spider, although Fly sometimes accidentally gets stuck in his web, to the horror of Fly's mother. Worm, his other best friend and fellow diarist, makes amusing cameo appearances. On sleepovers at Worm's house, Spider is revolted by the leaves and rotten tomatoes served for dinner. Conversely, Worm is disgusted when Spider molts. Spider, much like his young readers, is a little guy trying to learn how to navigate the world. He dreams of soaring on the wind to faraway places like his grandpa, who one day floats across the ocean to Paris. But happily, he is solidly grounded in everyday mischief, as when he laughs about grossing out people by spinning a huge sticky web on a water fountain or when he confides that "butterflies taste better with a little barbecue sauce."
Joanna Cotler Books/HarperCollins; $15.99
The Duck And the Owl By Hanna Johansen Illustrated by Käthi Bhend