On the hoary premise that children relate more readily to a painting or sculpture ""set in the context of a story,"" two museum workers have contrived little one-page tales to accompany 21 works of art that, moreover, somehow depict children. (""Artists for centuries have cared about children; perhaps through the stories in this book, children can learn to care about artists,"" is the silly syllogism.) Whether a child will identify with the Archaic Greek statues of Cleobus and Biton, two stylized post-pubescent youths, or with Van Eyck's Infant Jesus, is highly doubtful; and others of the subjects are either too static (the American Primitive portraits) or too rarefied and static (Goya's tiny aristocrat Don Manuel Osorio) to evoke a personal response. In most cases there is, in fact, no story. So we have Madame Charpentier's daughter Georgette burbling, ""Mummy, Mummy, Mr. Renoir is in the salon and is ready to paint us,"" or the soliloquy of a Degas ballet dancer. Once or twice a simple, salutary explanation substitutes for the so-called story; but on the whole the authors--apparently unacquainted with the best museum practices from Cleveland in the Twenties (whence sprang, if memory serves, The Goldsmith of Florence) to the Metropolitan in the Sixties (source of Shirley Glubok's presentations)--have settled for a bit of distraction instead of aiming for elucidation.