READ TO ME: Varied adventures await in 3 new picture books for kids

Amongst the thunderous herd of new or current children’s picture books are three very different adventure stories that inspire imagination and empathy.

“Finding Fire” by Logan S. Kline (Candlewick Press, September 13), ages 4-8, 40 pages, hardcover for $18.99.

Wordless books are great solo entertainment for pre-readers (see Guojing’s Stormy and David Wiesner’s Mr. Wuffles, for example).

Here, beautiful, detailed and naturalistic cartoon drawings convey an epic of youthful heroism without words. The only text is a prologue: “Long before the mysteries of fire were discovered, people had to find fire. And if they lost it…if it ran out…someone would have to search for more.”

We see a scruffy prehistoric family standing in amazement around their flooded campfire. Then we see the noisy family argument. Outside the cave, a scrawny red-haired child volunteers to look for fire.

He bravely sets out on an arduous parade of vivid dangers. Along the way, he rescues an adorable baby mastodon from a tar pit, and they bond.

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This is Kline’s first children’s book, although his illustrations have appeared in magazines such as Highlights and Cricket. He teaches art at a high school in upstate New York. He says his two sons inspired his wiry, wild-haired, likeable hero.

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“Gold!” by David Shannon (Viking, Sept 6), ages 3-7, 40 pages, $18.99 hardcover.

The latest work from a prolific author of award-winning children’s stories portrays King Midas as a wide-eyed, big-headed, and very selfish boy.

Painted vividly in bold colors, Maximilian Midas is born with an obsession with acquiring gold that thwarts his parents’ earnest attempts to socialize him. Hugs and books bore him; he cheats on tests; but he makes a bundle that sells lemonade.

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Soon he has more money than his parents. He charges them rent.

He ruins a rival lemonade vendor with dirty tricks, then accumulates more and more money. He’s only 7, but his golden mansion towers on a glittering mountain.

He’s just terrible until he decides to eat his gold. It has an unexpected, clumsy magical effect that will come as no surprise to adults familiar with ancient Greek history.

The rest of the story resolves in the usual fashion with redemption and a boy’s education that feelings matter.

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“Everywhere With You,” written by Carlie Sorosiak, illustrated by Devon Holzwarth (Walker Books, May 24), ages 4-8, 40 pages, $18.99, hardcover.

In Carlie Sorosiak’s Little Domestic Adventure for Animal Lovers, a neighbor girl takes an interest in the neighbor’s neglected dog. Every day she reaches through the fence separating their yards and offers treats and reads storybooks aloud. Boldly hued, dreamy adventure stories unfold.

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But one autumn day the girl doesn’t show up. There is no explanation. The dog looks for her in vain. As night falls he looks through the hole in his fence and sees her family lit up in their window playing together and he starts to cry. She hears him and rushes out, and they share the happiest story ever, about a fence falling down.

Days later, in a violent storm, the dog makes his way to her door, where he is welcomed, adopted, and loved.

Devon Holzwarth’s paintings sway and sway with floral textures, and there’s something deliciously nostalgic about her spotted dog’s pointed nose and curled body.

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Gallery: Read to Me, September 19

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