Book Reviews: Unmentionable Topics
Certain topics rarely come up in childrenís books (or in polite society), and one of them is head lice. As unpleasant as the topic is, itís a hugely relevant issue for kids at school Ė but Scritch Scratch (Orchard/Scholastic, $16.95, ages 4 to 8) by Miriam Moss might be the only book to deal with it head-on. The dastardly critters have the nerve to start with the cascading curls of the innocent teacher, Ms. Calypso. Soon the whole classroom is itching, in scenes so vividly depicted it will be hard not to follow suit. The principal comes to the rescue with special shampoo.

The highlight is Delphine Durandís amusing, stylized depictions of little kids frowning at their own and each otherís heads. The art meets the challenge of making an embarrassing topic entertaining.

Another topic rarely broadcast is the guilty pleasure of quality time with grandparents. Not that thereís anything wrong with parents, but sometimes a kid just wants a grandma or grandpa to spoil them Ė or at least treat them in a more relaxed, informal way. A sweet pair of new books celebrates the kind of togetherness that skips generations. Grandpa Lets Me Be Me and Countdown to Grandmaís House (Grosset, $3.49, ages 2 to 6) are both by Debra Mostow Zakarin and stylishly illustrated by Stacy Peterson. The situations in these stories may be unique, but the delicious freedom of extended boundaries is universal. Plus the grandma is refreshingly youthful (alas, the grandpa is a paunchy bald guy).

Related Topic: Donít miss our 10 Tips for Raising Strong Readers