ABC: MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS, BOSTON and ABC: THE MUSEUM OF MODERN ART, NEW YORK, both by Florence Cassen Mayers (Abrams: $9.95 each; 32 pp., age 2 and up).

You'll probably not find a more dignified set of ABCs. Each letter of the alphabet is paired with elegant reproductions of a sculpture, painting, musical instrument, or a piece of decorative art from museum collections, most of which are in color. The giraffe-like formats (14x4) begin with shiny covers in vibrant red and blue, then open to glossy pages of such beauty it's no exaggeration to say they'll be read again and again.

Preschoolers will feel right at home with the Cats, Fruit, Violinist and Dancers without realizing they're staring at masterpieces by Steinlen, Caillebotte, Degas and Renoir. Or Picasso's "She-Goat," Warhol's "Campbell Soup" and Albers' yellow square. Older kids will love the skull and rib cage X-ray of a mummy from Thebes and they'll contemplate Wesselmann's "Still Life" collage of a cluttered kitchen. New York and Boston youngsters can certainly visit these museums, now guide in hand, and double their learning fun a la treasure hunt. For rural kids who may never enjoy the adventure of a big city visit, these volumes offer a friendly introduction to art that may otherwise be missed.

About their size. Parents who are sticklers about books staying on shelves when not being read might get testy with these two. They're too tall to fit upright in regular bookcases, and lying down they hog half a shelf. So they end up places like on the coffee table or floor where, if you turn your back for three seconds, their long, slippery forms become speed boats or skis to imaginative children.

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