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Originally published Friday, November 5, 2010 at 7:24 PM

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9 new children's books from Caldecott Medal winners

Kids' books: A roundup of new books from past winners of the award for distinguished picture book for children. The list includes: "Moon Bear," "Dust Devil," "The Secret Cave," "The Last Song" and "Art and Max."

Scripps Howard News Service

Here are some great new books by previous winners of the Caldecott Medal:

With his brilliant new book "Art & Max" (Clarion, $17.99), author/illustrator David Wiesner has a chance of winning an unprecedented fourth Caldecott Medal. The annual award honors excellence in children's-book illustrations.

• In "Art & Max," Wiesner offers a humor-infused, quirky story focused on the friendship between two lizards: a pompous painter named Art and his rowdy friend Max, who wants to try his own hand at art. Things quickly get out of hand as Max takes Art's suggestion — "You could paint me" — and proceeds to put his own spin on it by literally plastering his friend with paint. When Max attempts to wash off the colors, Art becomes a mere outline — a la "Harold and the Purple Crayon" — until Max uses his creativity to bring his friend back to vibrant life.

The youngest readers will hoot at the silliness of the story and soak in the vivid colors and liveliness of Wiesner's illustrations. Older readers, however, will catch the deeper meaning in "Art & Max," understanding that Wiesner's story has a lot to say about art, friendship and life. (Ages 4-10.)

• Eric Rohmann, who won the 2003 Caldecott Medal for "My Friend Rabbit," has taken an 11-line lullaby by a Scotsman named James Guthrie and created a cozy bedtime tale in "Last Song" (Roaring Brook, $10.99). Sized just right for small hands to hold, Rohmann's book also features a die-cut front that allows readers to peek at a nest of squirrels curled up in the trunk of an oak tree. Rohmann's watercolors beautifully portray the coming night as the sky darkens in each two-page spread until the squirrels bid the "...lily-white star/a fond goodnight."(Ages 3-6.)

• In "Dust Devil" (Schwartz & Wade/Random House, $17.99), illustrator Paul Zelinsky teams up with author Anne Isaacs to continue their tall tale of Angelica Longrider, aka "Swamp Angel." Zelinsky, who won the 1998 Caldecott Medal for "Rapunzel," won a Caldecott Honor in 1995 for his illustrations in Angel's first adventure, "Swamp Angel."

As "Dust Devil" opens, the Paul Bunyan-sized Angel has just moved to Montana. But things aren't necessarily easy: Angel first has to tame a whirlwind horse she names Dust Devil, and then figure out how to bring Backward Bart and his Flying Desperadoes to justice. Isaacs' action-packed story is filled with comic moments, and the tale's comedy is broadened further in Zelinsky's spectacular, primitive-style artwork, done in oils on cedar, aspen and maple veneers. (Ages 5-10.)

• David Small won the 2001 Caldecott Medal for his illustrations for "So You Want To Be President?" Now he brings his talents to "Elise's Bird" (Philomel, $17.99), a story about a girl who moves with her widowed father from her beloved Boston to Nebraska. Elise, a city-lover, hates what she believes is the silence of the prairie and at first refuses to leave her lonely farmhouse. When her pet canary escapes one day, however, Elise runs out into the surrounding grasslands and, for the first time, hears "the voices of the plains."

Author Jane Yolen's lyrical story is matched by Small's illustrations, in which he uses watercolor, pastel and ink to capture both Elise's spirit and the majesty of the Nebraskan landscape. (Ages 4-8.)

• Jerry Pinkney, who won the 2010 Caldecott Medal for "The Lion and the Mouse," takes on another traditional story in "Three Little Kittens" (Dial, $16.99). Pinkney's anthropomorphized kittens frolic and caper through the pages of this delightful picture book. While the story is simple, Pinkney's detail-filled illustrations give it an entertaining energy that will have young readers wanting to read "Three Little Kittens" again and again. (Ages 3-6.)

• A boy, a crow and a wintery landscape are the three main elements in author/illustrator Chris Raschka's memorable new book, "Little Black Crow" (Atheneum, $16.99). Raschka, who won the 2006 Caldecott Medal for "The Hello, Goodbye Window," tells a simple story of a child imagining what a crow might be thinking and, in the process, revealing much about himself. Raschka's loose-lined watercolor illustrations are magnificent, portraying a world in just a few brushes of line and color. (Ages 3-6.)

• Emily Arnold McCully, who won the 1993 Caldecott Medal for "Mirette On the High Wire," offers two new books, both based on true events. In "Wonder Horse" (Henry Holt, $16.99), McCully tells the story of Bill "Doc" Key, who became famous for his ability to teach his horse Jim Key to recognize letters and numbers and use that knowledge to answer questions. In "The Secret Cave" (FSG, $16.99), McCully writes of the four French boys who discovered a treasure trove of primitive art at Lascaux. McCully uses her trademark watercolor-and-ink style in both books as she introduces young readers to some fascinating history. (Ages 5-10.)

• Author Brenda Guiberson uses a call-and-response text to introduce young readers to an increasingly rare wild animal in "Moon Bear" (Henry Holt, $16.99). Dramatic cut-paper collage illustrations by Ed Young, who won the 1990 Caldecott Medal for "Lon Po Po," spotlight the beauty and playfulness of the moon bears. (Ages 5-8.)

Contact Karen MacPherson, the children's/teen librarian at the Takoma Park, Md., Library, at Kam.Macpherson@gmail.com.

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