Youngsters who can never have enough of Christmas, in their own or fictional households, will delight in these 22 stories--though adults may well be surprised at how many variations German newcomer Margret Rettich manages to ring on the theme without Balkanizing the collection. Like a book of adult short stories, that is, it has a distinct, unifying tone and, concomitantly, a minimum of distracting particulars. In the title story, a mother and father touch up a derelict doll carriage and, applying silver paint wherever a drop falls, laughingly transform everything in sight, including a pair of old shoes--left behind, daughter Julie wants to believe, by a stranger with a silver touch. ""The Highway Christmas"" turns, anxiously and comically, on personal relations (as, to a greater or lesser extent, do all the stories: the couple in ""The Silver Touch"" start out at cross-purposes). Here, the problem is Papa's resentment of Mama's mother or, more precisely, of her bossiness because they live in her house (so she won't have to live alone). So, when she insists he put the Christmas tree where she's always put it, he packs up family, presents, tree, and takes off. But what relative or friend will welcome their arrival on Christmas Eve? (No, the obvious parallel is not played up.) Most moving--and not the least maudlin--is ""Angel Marie,"" about Little Marie who, unable to learn lines as a child, plays a silent but vital part in the Christmas pageant for 60 years. Some, of course, are more ordinary than others (and Elsie's accidental imprisonment in the toilet bowl, the result of trying ""to pee like her five brothers,"" is nightmarish if not as tasteless as it sounds). But it's what Rettich discovers in the occasion--the consequences of the present that doesn't arrive, of the pair siwtched in the sending--that makes so many of these stories immediate and memorable.