(This is the dog that worried the cat that killed the rat that ate the malt that lay in the house that Jack built.) In this variation on Mother Goose's work, Jill's house is just big enough for Jill and a cat. So, what is the duo to do when neighbors drop in looking for a place to live? The generous girl and her feline companion decide renovations are in order and special requests accommodated. Little Jack Horner needs a room with a pie and a corner. Old Mother Hubbard arrives with a pooch, and she wants a cupboard in her area. Three little kittens require a place to wash their newly found mittens, and Little Bo Peep will be much less likely to lose track of her charge if she can live inside Jill's house with sheep. By the last page, Jill and her cat don't have elbow room in their own home. It's a good thing they have perfected their carpentry skills.
Children will get a lot of laughs when they see familiar characters in the new setting. After reading it aloud, play a continue-the-story game. Ask little ones to think about the cast of their favorite stories. What might Little Red Riding Hood need? What would Old King Cole or Humpty Dumpty want? After discussing the possibilities, find crayons and draw the plans.
Night of the New Magicians: A Merlin Mission by Mary Pope Osborne (Random House Books for Young Readers, $11.95; ages 7 and older). In their latest adventure, the Magic Tree House kids, Annie and Jack, travel back in time to 1899 and attend the Paris World's Fair. Their mission is to find and protect four new magicians. During the hunt, they run in to people such as Alexander Graham Bell, Louis Pasteur and Thomas Edison. This is book No. 35 in the best-selling series that made its debut in 1992.