Princess' riddle sure to hook young readers

Sunday, July 1, 2001

"One Riddle, One Answer" is a singular success.

Written by Lauren Thompson and illustrated by Linda S. Wingerter, this tale follows the path of a young Persian princess who strikes a smart deal with her doting father, the sultan.

As the sultan tries to find a suitable husband for his lovely and wise daughter, he finds that the suitors are interested in only what the match can do for them.

The beautiful Aziza takes matters into her own hands and says to her father: "Let me pose a riddle.

The riddle has but one true answer. Whoever can answer the riddle will be the one I would be happiest to marry." Her father, knowing she is bright, agrees.

The riddle? Here it is:

"Placed above, it makes greater things small. Placed beside, it makes small things greater. In matters that count, it always comes first. Where others increase, it keeps all things the same. What is it?"

Think it's too hard? It is for most of the men who pursue Aziza.

Luckily, there is one who can solve the riddle, and, as Aziza predicted, the two are happy united as one.

"One Riddle, One Answer" is a magnetic book for readers ages 5 to 9 that blends colorfully rich artwork with an intelligent, challenging story line. Girls may gravitate toward this story more than boys, but that's OK.

The story encourages girls to study and excel in a very important classroom subject.

"One Riddle, One Answer" (Scholastic Press, $15.95) is one that stands alone.

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Despite all the adventure, it's easy to see why pirates aren't the subject of lots of children's books. They just don't make good role models.

But now there's a new cap'n crunching through the seven seas. He associates with pirates, but only in order to bring them to justice.

Meet "Robin Hook: Pirate Hunter" by Eric A. Kimmel and illustrated by Michael Dooling. The story opens with young Robin being cradled on the ocean surface in the arms of a giant octopus.

Readers (ages 4 to 8) know then that Robin is no ordinary baby. He is taken aboard by pirates and spends his formative years observing the pirates' seafaring and sea-terrorizing ways, though never liking it for a moment.

After he admits to helping three prisoners escape, young Robin is deposited on a deserted isle. Being resourceful, Robin manages to survive and learns the languages of the animals. After months alone, Robin is joined by other youths marooned by pirates. Together they build an unusual vessel to take back the briny blue and put the pirates in their proper place.

As one might guess, "Robin Hook" (Scholastic Press, $15.95) blends the best from the worlds of Robin Hood and Captain Hook.

So grab hold of the gunwales and loosen the mainsheet, "Robin Hook" will carry you into uncharted territory.

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C'mon. Give us a kiss. Preferably a kiss like the kind found in "Baby Animal Kisses" by Barney Saltzberg.

"Baby Animal Kisses" (Red Wagon Books/Harcourt, $7.95) is a loving discovery book for children ages 6 months to 3 years that delivers a different kind of touchy, feely sensation.

The simple, bright illustrations introduce the youngest of readers to a variety of textures, as well as a menagerie of babies and adults.

Each reinforced page presents a new tactile experience and teaches toddlers the terms for different types of animal youngsters. This is a book where learning comes first, but the learning is cloaked by fun.

Like the perennial favorite "Pat the Bunny," Saltzberg's book will be picked up again and again � and again and again.

But the sturdy construction of "Baby Animal Kisses" may keep toddlers coming back for rereads longer. Children will like it for its wonderful use of color, its playful illustrations and its clever use of our sense of touch.

I don't know how you feel, but I think "Baby Animal Kisses" is very � touching.



� Jill Hummels is the mother of Haley, 9, and Tess, 8, and the director of public relations at the School of Engineering at Kansas University.