BOOKS: Imagine: a Cow in a Gown!

Plus bad-attitude gargoyles, secret messages and other delights in a Christmas choice of books for kids

The Sunday Outing, by Gloria Jean Pinkney; illustrated by Jerry Pinkney (Dial; $14.99), tells of Ernestine, a young African-American girl who lives in Philadelphia and hopes to save up money for a big adventure: a train ride to visit relatives in North Carolina. The dialogue is shrewdly written; Aunt Odessa, up from the South, talks country ("You wasn't worried now, was you?"), though Ernestine's parents speak Standard English. The beautiful drawings show a warm, believable middle-class black family of about 40 years ago.

Grandfather's Pencil, written and illustrated by Michael Foreman (Harcourt Brace; $14.95), is a dreamy tale of an English...

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