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Amazing Animal Tales

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This batch of animal stories — some fiction, some true — introduces real squirrels, weird frogs, birds that teach music and toy rats that attack.

"The Secret Life of Squirrels" by Nancy Rose; Little, Brown and Co.; 32 pages; $17.

Mr. Peanuts is a squirrel filled with personality. He cooks on a tiny grill, plays the piano and does his own laundry. He also anxiously awaits his cousin's visit, and the pair play chess, camp and have a great time together.

With up-close, clear photographs of wild squirrels in handcrafted, homemade miniature settings, Nancy Rose's unique, quirky picture book is uber-fun. It also highlights the importance of friendship and how fun animals can be. Rose includes 10 tips for photographing wildlife and answers an insightful Q and A session about squirrels.

"A Squirrel's Story: A True Tale" by Jana Bommersbach; illustrated by Jeff Yesh; Little Five Star Publications; 48 pages; $11.95.

Retold by author Jana Bommersbach, the true tale of Shirlee Squirrel proves how loving and concerned animal families can be. Shirlee creates a home in a birdhouse designed for ducks and raises her children, all under the watchful eye of a man and woman whose yard they inhabit.

Another caring, delightful squirrel story, this one is heartfelt and lovely. It also includes extra activities at the end.

"A Song for the Birds" by Leah Wells; illustrated by Naomi Rosenblatt; Heliotrope Books; 30 pages; $5.

Every bird in this music education book sings his or her own notes (C for Canary, D for Duck, E for Eagle), and they join together under the direction of "The Birdwatcher" to create a whole song using all of their notes.

With whimsical, almost retro-looking sketches, Naomi Rosenblatt's artwork adds to the gentle fun of this note-learning paperback tale. The first in the "How Do You Do Music" series, the books are designed to help preschoolers and beginning readers learn the basics of music. Well-done, lighthearted and fun, Leah Wells' sing-songy tale works beautifully.

"Weird Frogs" and "Weird Birds" by Chris Earley; Firefly Books; 64 pages and $9.95 each.

Frogs are extremely important to nature, but are often misunderstood by humans. This clearly photographed book showcases every detail of frogs' appearances. Fifty-eight odd-looking frogs and their strange mannerisms are presented, with fascinating details about their purposes and endangerments.

"Weird Birds" does the same thing, only with, yes, odd birds as subjects. From the Andean Cock-of-the-Rock to the Secretarybird to Atlantic Puffins and Asian Paradise Flycatchers, Earley's birds and descriptions are highly amazing.

"Rat Attack" and "Princess Pig" by Molly Cote; BraveMouse Readers; 36 pages; $3.99 each.

These fun beginning readers star toy animals in fun little stories that showcase vowels. "Princess Pig" features the "short i" sound, a bossy pig and a friend who knows when to say "NO!" "Rat Attack" features the "short a" sound, some sneaky, jam-loving rats, and three brave mice who have a plan to save Gram and the jam.

Each book includes two story starters and open-ended questions.

To find out more about Lee Littlewood, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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