Terrific books to inspire young minds.


By Kevin Henkes (Greenwillow, ages 1 to 3) "It was a bad day.... Little yellow bird lost his favorite tail feather." Three other creatures endure similar mishaps, but everything works out in the end (especially for a little girl who finds a yellow feather for her hair). Award-winning Henkes reassures young kids that all is right with the world, using bright, expressive watercolors and a few well-chosen words. ($17)


By Satoru Onishi (Kane/Miller, ages 2 to 5) This smart Japanese import sharpens children's observational powers. Questions prompt kids to ferret out the differences in 18 whimsical animals. "Who's crying?" sends them off to find the bunny with a teardrop. "Who's hiding?" asks kids to deduce which critter has disappeared, using telltale clues left behind (like horns). Keep this handy for a quick distraction-little ones will find it fun and engrossing. ($15)


By Melinda Long, illus. by David Shannon (Harcourt, ages 3 to 7) Jolly good humor and over-the-top illustrations abound in this sequel to the bestselling How I Became a Pirate. The lovable, bumbling buccaneers return for treasure buried in a boy's yard. But before digging, they must help him babysit his sister. "Pirates don't sit on babies!" the grown men protest, foreshadowing the hilarious mayhem that ensues. ($16)


By John Rocco (Hyperion, ages 4 to 7) In China, an old wolf dreams of feasting on "mu shu goat and double-goat dumplings." Too slow to chase down a meal, though, the wolf tricks a goatherd-who's cried "Wolf" too many times-into giving him one of his animals. Humorously told from the predator's perspective, this redo of a classic fable will keep kids laughing all the way to the vegetarian-approved ending. Striking paintings add Asian flavor to this deliciously amusing tale. ($16)