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A trio for the tykes


THE GIFT of DRISCOLL LIPSCOMB. By Sara Yamaka. Simon & Schuster. Illustrated by Joung Un Kim. 32 pages. $15.

THE GREAT BALL GAME: A MUSKOGEE STORY. "Retold" by Joseph Bruchac. Dial Books. Illustrated by Susan Roth. 32 pages. $14.99.

EMILY AND ALICE AGAIN. By Joyce Champion. Gulliver Books.

Illustrated by Sucie Stevenson. 32 pages. $14.

5/8 The Gift of Driscoll Lipscomb," is a colorful book that's designed for young readers ages 4-8 but will be best appreciated by young readers who are keenly esthetic, which of course describes your child or grandchild, right? The narrator is a little girl who, to judge by the colorful illustrations, resembles the author -- Sara Yamaka, a Park School student in Baltimore.

She lives near a body of water, also near some mountains, which means it must be America in Miniature. Whatever, the point of the story is: She lives near an artist, a painter whose name is Driscoll Lipscomb but who resembles the late Arthur Fiedler, the longtime Boston Pops conductor. And every year on the little girl's birthday, starting at age 4, Driscoll Lipscomb gives her a brush and a pot of paint of a different color -- red on her 4th birthday, orange on her 5th, yellow on her 6th and so on: green, blue and purple. She spends each year painting various objects with the paint color for that year -- red apples, orange lollipops, yellow sunsets, green beetles and so on. When she turns 9, Lipscomb tells her he has given her the rainbow. She realizes that all the world's a veritable riot of color, and that's pretty much the size of it.

"The Gift of Driscoll Lipscomb" is the first book by both Ms. Yamaka and Ms. Joung, a New Yorker. As suggested, art lovers of any age should like it. It may not be so exciting for a reader who is color-blind.

"The Great Ball Game" is Joseph Bruchac's Abenaki Indian version of a Muskogee (or Creek) tale about a ball game: animals with teeth vs. animals with wings. It is resolved by an animal with both (a bat).

Mr. Bruchac makes it a game resembling lacrosse but played with two rackets per player, and he apparently consulted the Lacrosse Foundation and the Lacrosse Hall of Fame in Baltimore to get a feel for the sport.

The colored illustrations are beautiful cut-out collage paste-ups by the Baltimore artist (and writer) Susan L. Roth. The story supposedly tells us why birds fly south in the winter. But frankly, the explanation is a little weak: not all birds go anywhere in the winter, and those that do probably do so because of nothing more complicated than the fact that it's warmer there. Little kids, however, probably won't lose much sleep over that issue.

Sucie Stevenson's cartoon-like illustrations for this book for and about children should make it especially amusing for the parents and adults whose duty it is to read it. Emily and Alice are shown in the costumes children favor nowadays, clunky shoes or sandals, bare feet or clown-striped stockings, frilly skirts or ragged jeans, unruly hair or ponytails; in short, the legacy of 1960s flower children, hippies, grunge and God knows what else combined in clothes that are so hideous they're funny.

The episodic story is also charming. Emily, who appears to be 6 or 7 years old, does kid stuff like, you know, trades her younger sister to her next-door contemporary, Alice, for a pair of sunglasses and so on. It's like, you know, lovingly droll. The title suggests that Emily and Alice have starred in a previous book or two, but if so, I've missed them. And I regret it.


John Goodspeed writes from the Eastern Shore.

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