Richard Wright and the Library Card by William Miller, illustrated by Gregory Christie (Lee & Low, $15.95) In 1920s Memphis, the young man who would become a great American writer could not borrow books from the whites-only library. Ultimately, Wright forged his own passage to Dickens and Tolstoy: Miller's transcendent account of this moment is memorable indeed.
The Adventures of Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren, illustrated by Michael Chesworth (Viking, $25) At last, all of the red-braided rebel's most exciting escapades (Smithsonian, November 1995), replete with new line drawings and color plates, collected in one volume.
Finding Walter by Ann Turner (Harcourt Brace, $16) When two sisters arrive at their grandmother's country house for a year's stay, they restore a long-abandoned dollhouse and its family to the world of play. Then the magic begins. This touching and timeless novel is certain to become a perennial favorite.
Bright Star by Gary Crew, illustrated by Anne Spudvillas (Kane/Miller, $13.95) Amateur astronomer John Tebbutt, living in rural Australia, discovered the "comet of the century" in 1861, using only a small marine telescope. The fictional reprise of his career also introduces a young girl whose passion for geometry leads her to Tebbutt's night-sky observatory.
The Gardener by Sarah Stewart, illustrated by David Small (Farrar, Straus, Giroux, $15) Stewart's enchanting story, at once an ode to the art of growing things and a window on the Depression, also pays homage to roof gardens, spunky heroines, the lost art of letter writing and happy endings.
The National Wildlife Federation Book of Family Nature Activities by Page Chichester (Henry Holt, $14.95) Wading into swamps to attracting hummingbirds: the 50 projects described here will indeed "make learning a family adventure."
The Neptune Fountain: The Apprenticeship of a Renaissance Sculptor written and illustrated by Taylor Morrison (Holiday House, $15.95) In 17th-century Rome, a boy enters an artist's studio to learn the demanding art of creating monumental figures. This skillful amalgam of fact and fiction limns an era and an art form.
For Older Readers [10 and up]
Run Away Home by Patricia C. McKissack (Scholastic, $14.95) In this page-turning novel, the author has turned for inspiration to her Native American and African-American an-cestors. Set in Alabama in 1888, this account of a sharecropper family who gives refuge to a fugitive Apache boy illumines a little-known interlude in American history.
Project Puffin: How We Brought Puffins Back to Egg Rock by Stephen W. Kress, as told to Pete Salmansohn (Tilbury House, Gardiner, Maine, $16.95) The true story of biologist Kress' dream--to restore the habitat on two Maine islands and reestablish Atlantic puffins there--is by turns suspenseful, informative and heartening. A separate and equally admirable teacher's guide is also available.