ONLY CHILDREN<i> by Alison Lurie (Avon: $7.95) </i>

A vivid, warmly nostalgic novel that evokes a child’s vision of the 4th of July weekend, 1935. While visiting a farm in Upstate New York, Mary Ann Hubbard (who prefers to style herself Princess Miranda) and her shy friend, Lolly Zimmern, play games of make-believe as they watch the grownups play games of their own: some silly, some deadly serious.

Mary Ann’s father, a stuffy bureaucrat, arrives with a briefcase full of papers and refuses to leave his work for even a few hours of leisure. Her mother, a fading, flirtatious Southern belle, turns her charms on Lolly’s calculating, hearty father--to the horror of his neurotic, clinging wife. It falls to Anna, the wise Earth Mother figure who owns the farm and the progressive school the girls attend, to show the nominal adults the the meaning of independence and maturity.

Alison Lurie’s gentle sense of irony ensures that the resulting contretemps end happily and teach the adults the folly of believing too strongly in their own make-believe worlds.