In a recent column, I was whining about the dearth of truly new material in children's picture books. Here, I'm contradicting myself and celebrating some recently published books that strike out into unexplored (relatively) territory.

"The Legend of the Golden Snail" by Graeme Base is simply stunning. The illustrations stand on their own to absorb children.

A boy and his cat sail away to find an enchanted Golden Snail. They perform one kindness after another. Each kindness is returned as the boy resumes his quest. Yes, the theme is very familiar, but the book is fresh and spectacular. For children 4-7. And everyone else.

"Mary's Penny" by Tanya Landman is based on a traditional feminist fable. Landman says, "At its heart lies a nugget of old wisdom that gleams as brightly today as it did when it was first told."

A farmer is determining which of his three children will inherit his farm. He gives each one a penny with the stipulation that they buy something that will fill up the house. This is a Junior Library Guild Selection for children 4-7.

"The Wonderful Book" by Leonid Gore is a delightful original tale that reminds me of "The Mitten." Forest creatures find an abandoned book and discover that it's useful as a bed, a table, a hat and a house. When a curious boy happens along, he begins to read the book and all the creatures gather around. For children ages 2-5. And everyone else.

"Chippy Chipmunk Parties in the Garden" written and photographed by Kathy M. Miller is a rollicking, nature story that amuses and entertains while it teaches children about the adorable Eastern Chipmunk.

The photographs capture expressions and actions that would not be possible to see in casual observation. When I saw the photo of Chippy washing behind his ears, I laughed out loud. For children ages 3-7.

"The Magic Brush: A Story of Love, Family, and Chinese Characters" by Kat Yeh is an unusual picture book about a Chinese child and her grandfather.

Agong (grandfather) weaves a magical tale with bright illustrations and Chinese characters. When Agong dies, the child begins teaching her little brother. The book ends with a pronunciation key, a brief history of Chinese art, and a description of some Chinese treats. For children ages 5 and up.

"The Odious Ogre" by Norton Juster is another wonderful new book. I mentioned it previously in a column about how to scare off children's socks.

Occasionally, there is something new under the sun. Or at least, something that's been rearranged.

Contact Fran Hawk at franbooks@yahoo.com.