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Longing for peace (and cookies)

Can You Say Peace?
Written and illustrated by Karen Katz
Holt, 32 pp., ages 2 and up, $15.95

In the Fiddle Is a Song
Written and illustrated
by Durga Bernhard
Chronicle, 24 pp., ages 2-5, $10.95

All in Just One Cookie
Written by Susan E. Goodman
Illustrated by Timothy Bush
Greenwillow, 32 pp., ages 4 and up, $16.99

Peace Day is still about a month away (Sept. 21) but it is never too early to declare peace. ``Can You Say Peace?" teaches us that one precious word in 11 languages, with an appendix offering 11 more. The children, in bold, bright, childlike elemental pictures, live all over the globe, from India to Japan, from America to China to Africa. Author-illustrator Karen Katz cleverly gives us not just the word for peace, but also its phonetic pronunciation in each language. Her pictures offer some other worldwide learning as well, showing koala bears in Australia and chickens in Mexico; the skyscrapers of New York and bright-colored tents in Iran.

What this book reinforces, without preaching or politics, is the truth that children everywhere desire peace. We all have different ways of saying the word, but the goal, the dream, remains the same. I need hardly add how heart breakingly timely this book seems just now. It's a book no school or public library ought to be without, and I'm sure many families will find it a useful resource as well.

``In the Fiddle Is a Song," written and illustrated by Durga Bernhard, is, to cite the book's cover, ``a lift-the-flap book of hidden potential." It's a refreshing lift-the-flap book because it is so unabashedly lyrical, a quality not often found in typical ``where is the dog hiding?/under the chair" lift-the-flap books. I suppose the theory may be that very small children delight in any form of hide-and-seek, including lifting flaps (that's true) but that they can't or won't understand poetic wisdom (untrue).

Bernhard casts such caution to the winds. On the first page we see a giant acorn lying on the ground in something a kin to a beautiful Rockwell Kent landscape. ``In the acorn" -- you open the flap and an oak tree rises from the acorn, so tall a girl is swinging on a rope from its lowest branches -- ``is a tree waiting to grow tall." Similarly, ``In the fiddle / is a song waiting to be played," and my favorite image of all, ``In the wheat . . . is bread waiting to be baked."

I need to register two small complaints. One lies in the syntax of the book, in that awkward, passive ``is a -- waiting to be --." How much clearer to say, ``In the acorn hides or lives or waits a tree." And a weaving is not ``spun," as this text says -- it's woven. The baby blanket pictured here looks knitted. But this does not rob the book of its virtues. It ends with a promise to the growing child: ``In you," it reads, accompanying a picture of a child with the image of a horse on his shirt, ``is a story waiting to be told." Lift the flap and off he sails on the back of a galloping horse.

Potential is at work, and so is the wide world, in ``All in Just One Cookie," a marvelous book that combines all the necessary ingredients for one batch of chocolate chip cookies. The ingredients are familiar, but you may not know that baking soda comes from a lake that existed 50 million years ago. Now it's a desert in Wyoming, where ``miners use huge machines with twirling spikes to break into walls of trona, a mineral the lake left behind." Cocoa pods in West Africa or Ecuador ``grow to the size of footballs." Vanilla comes from a tiny orchid that ``stays open for less than a day." What's more, ``farmers could transplant vanilla vines to Madagascar, but not the little Mexican bees that visit each flower and spread its pollen. So the farmers do the job themselves." (And now you know why vanilla beans cost so much.)

Author Susan E. Goodman goes through the ingredient s -- painstakingly, spryly -- giving us a global, scientific, and historical perspective for each one in language crisp as a homemade cookie. Timothy Bush's illustrations are deliberately cartoony, and each ingredient merits not only a double-spread illustration but sidebars and comical sketches.

There's an outside frame for this story -- Grandma is baking cookies for her guests while a hyperactive dog and intellectual cat look on. There's a touch of the too-cute in some of this framework, but the solid architecture of the book holds up. There's of course a recipe at the back for baking your own chocolate chip cookies, as well as a world map showing where each ingredient came from. The author's note reminds us, ``You could write a geographic ABC book using the names of places where wheat flour is grown." Now that's an alphabet book I'd be interested to see.

Liz Rosenberg teaches literature and creative writing at the State University of New York at Binghamton. She reviews books for young readers each month.

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