Night Light by Nicholas Blechman
Count from one to ten in this picture book all about lights at night. The book begins with a black page and just one light shining through from a die cut to the page beyond. Turn the page and you see that one light is a train. Keep turning and you start counting more and more lights, each attached to a different vehicle. Some of the pages have clues so that you can guess what sort of vehicle it is. This is a book perfect for small children to start to count and ideal for children who love trucks, planes and trains.
Blechman keeps his writing very simple. The real draw of the book is the clever use of die cuts to show just the lights before you turn the page. The blackness of the page also adds to the drama and suspense very nicely. The book is printed on heavier pages, making it very friendly for toddler hands.
A simple and engaging book for young truck lovers that is a mix of counting and guessing game. Appropriate for ages 1-3.
Musk Ox Counts by Erin Cabatingan, illustrated by Matthew Myers
The characters from A is for Musk Ox return for a counting book this time. A counting book should be fairly straight forward, it’s counting after all. But Musk Ox has different ideas. Must to Zebra’s dismay, he doesn’t even make it to number one at the beginning of the book to be counted as one Musk Ox. Instead he is on the page with 2 yaks. Musk Ox offers to fix the problem on the page for number one, but still messes up the 2 yaks page. Zebra is beside himself and a sulky Musk Ox heads back to page one on his own. But he doesn’t stay there for long! Expect plenty of counting chaos throughout the book though there is also some easy addition thrown in too.
I enjoyed this book almost as much as the first one. This one has the joy of returning to two engaging characters. As with the first, you never know what is going to happen on the next page, making it very engaging reading. Cabatingan writes the two characters with zingy dialogue and the book is a must for reading aloud.
Myers’ illustrations add to the zany book. He manages to keep crowded pages from being confusing as the number mount. He also uses the effect of Musk Ox and Zebra peeking through from other pages very nicely.
The result is a counting book worth sharing aloud to a group of preschoolers, and there aren’t many counting books that you can say that about! Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.
Count the Monkeys by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Kevin Cornell
It is clear from the title that this book is about counting monkeys, and the title page explains that all one has to do is turn the page to do just that. So here we go! Wait. 1 King Cobra has scared off all of the monkeys. Turn the page and 2 mongooses (or mongeese maybe?) have scared off the cobra but still no monkeys. Keep turning pages and there are more animals that scare off the ones from the page before, but no monkeys at all. The pattern is set until the 8 lumberjacks stick around for multiple pages. And it will take something unusual to scare them off. But even then, where are the monkeys?
Barnett has created another surprising picture book that turns a normal counting book merrily on its head. He speaks directly to the reader, instructing them along the way on how to move the creatures off of the page, how to best turn the page, and explaining what just went wrong. His silly approach to a counting book will find universal approval.
Cornell’s illustrations have a wonderful humor about them as well. He takes Barnett’s vision and makes it colorful and bright. All of the creatures have personality, from the crocodiles in vests and top hats to the self-satisfied wolves who clear out the grandmothers. Each page has a twinkle to it that makes it fun to take a closer look at the pages.
Pure hilarity, this counting book is made to share out loud with a giggling group of preschoolers. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
123 versus ABC by Mike Boldt
The letters and numbers just can’t agree in this book! Is it a counting book or an alphabet book? You will just have to read on to figure it out. As the pages turn, it just gets more confusing. Sure the first animal to appear is an Alligator, but there is just One. Then there are Two Bears, Three Cars, and on and on it goes. The book is narrated by the number one and the letter A, both of them arguing over what the book is really about. Happily, they are both right in this mash up of an alphabet and counting book that is funny, silly and a romp of a read.
Boldt manages to make a counting and alphabet book that has a real freshness to it. A large part of the success is in the humor, much of which is contributed by the two main characters, A and 1. There little rivalry and clever asides add to the tension of the premise but also resolve in the end to something much more friendly.
Boldt’s art is bright colored and pays homage to vintage picture books. The two main characters have a cartoon-like appeal to them with their broad expressions and Mickey Mouse gloves. Boldt makes good use of white space throughout the book, allowing the mix of alphabet and numbers space to breathe on the page, something that becomes particularly important as the pages get more crowded.
Fresh and funny, this is one clever mash-up of ABCs and 123s that will appeal to every child who likes a lot of laughs. It will work well with preschoolers who will enjoy the jokes as they review the content. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins.
Flight 1-2-3 by Maria van Lieshout
Take a ride on a plane in this follow-up to Backseat A-B-See! The trip begins with a cab ride to the airport and asks readers what they see. There is 1 airport, 2 luggage carts, 3 check-in desks, and the book progresses to very large numbers, like 100 passengers and 33,000 feet. Van Lieshout uses all of the official signage you see around the airport to inspire her art. Those signs are on each page, right next to the numbers to help with counting. The characters too have a graphic, sign-like quality to them, though the main family has its own quirks like yellow tennis shoes and hair in a black ponytail.
With minimal text and art that is a playful look at official signage, this counting book will appeal to kids who love planes and also to those heading out on their first plane trip. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.
Everything Goes in the Air by Brian Biggs
Brian Biggs has several new books out which is great news for youngsters who love cars, trucks and airplanes. Everything Goes in the Air takes Henry and his family on an airplane ride. Readers get to visit a bustling airport, where they can search for lost babies. From vintage airplanes to modern ones, we learn about the different parts of a place and the various types they come in. Modern airport security is explained, then the book turns to helicopters and hot air balloons. Just before takeoff, children get to see inside the cockpit and marvel at the crowded airspace. Then it’s up, up and away!
Biggs’ crowded pages show the hustle and hurry of an airport. His friendly art and seek-and-find activities will keep children busy exploring the pages. Information is given in small bits, mostly through conversations that are shown in cartoon bubbles. This is a marvelously fun and exciting way to explore airplanes and airports.
A great pick for a plane ride, or to help prepare children for an upcoming flight, this book has such detailed illustrations that it is best shared with just one child at a time. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Everything Goes: 123 Beep Beep Beep!: A Counting Book by Brian Biggs
Everything Goes: Stop! Go!: A Book of Opposites by Brian Biggs
These two board books simplify the busy style of Biggs into books that are more appropriate for toddlers. Here the bright colors and cartoon-style illustrations pop. The counting book goes up to ten, each page offering a different sort of vehicle to count. They range from RVs to busses. The opposites book again uses vehicles to show things like dirty and clean, old and new, ending with stop and go.
Very young children who enjoy cars, trucks and other vehicles will love these board books. Expect the basic text to be accompanied with lots of motor sounds from the audience! Appropriate for ages 1-3.
All items reviewed from copies received from Balzer + Bray.
Animal 123 by Britta Teckentrup
Animal Spots and Stripes by Britta Teckentrup
This pair of lift-the-flap books for preschoolers are very cleverly done. My favorite of the two is the counting one, where the flap on each page lifts to reveal the next number and another one of the animals to count. Spots and Strips also has flaps which in this case lift to reveal related animals with either spots or stripes that contrast and complement the animals on the main page. The flaps on both books are large and sturdy, making these books that libraries could have on their shelves.
Teckentrup’s graphics are really what make these books special. Her use of bold colors and large sized illustrations are striking. The animals are jaunty and filled with life, fairly bouncing off of the page. Add the appeal of lifting flaps and you have books that small children will ask to have read to them again and again. Even more special is that the flaps are really part of the design of the books themselves. They are much more than just added appeal, instead they are inherent to the way the books function.
Great picks for libraries, but also equally great picks for holiday gifts for toddlers and preschoolers. Appropriate for ages 2-4, as long as they are past the board book phase and able to be gentle with pages.
How Many Jelly Beans? by Andrea Menotti, illustrated by Yancey Labat
Released in April 2012.
I cannot count how many dismal number and math books I have read over the years. I’m lucky enough to have a mathematical kid, but finding books that he would enjoy was painful. Many math books are a lot more about concept than about being fun to read. Well, not this one! This one winningly mixes math with candy, so that even non-mathematical kids will give it a try. Aiden and Emma are just like most siblings, they are trying to get more than each other. So when Emma asks for 10 jelly beans, Aiden asks for 20! And the number just keep climbing from there. Soon, they are up to 500 jelly beans, which may be way too many to eat. But how about 1000 or 5000 or 10,000 in a year? The jelly beans get smaller and smaller until the final number of 1 million is reached only be an enormous fold-out page.
This visual sweet treat will get children able to truly visualize what the difference between thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands and a million are. The art by Labat done in black and white with only the jelly beans for tantalizing color really works. The focus is on the candy and the number. Menotti nicely inserts division into the conversation too, when the children debate how many jelly beans they could eat in a year.
I can see this over-sized book inspiring lots of counting, adding, dividing and multiplying in families, or it is also a very sweet book to share with your number-loving kid. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
An aside just for librarians, please don’t put this in the remoteness of the nonfiction section with your math books. Let it enjoy being taken home as a yummy picture book with a jelly bean and math center.
Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.
American Modern Books shared two new board books that are coming out in September. Both have a modern art vibe that is captivating:
Colors by Charley Harper
This is the third board book by Harper and follows his alphabet and counting books. Here the colors correspond to animals and natural colors in the illustrations. There are red birds, blue water, orange leaves, and a yellow moon. There are also some more man-made items in the book like fire hydrants, cars and hats. The design here is very successful with the small size of the board book format creating a very nice frame around the illustrations. There is also a lot of variety in the images, though all are thoroughly modern.
Counting in the Garden by Emily Hruby, illustrated by Patrick Hruby
This counting book counts visually as well as in the text of the book. Steadily count from 1 to 12 with items from the garden. After each new number is counted, readers turn the page to see that item added to the garden. What starts as a green and brown, but fairly open and plain field becomes robust and crowded with plants. The illustrations are strong with plenty of color and lots of energy. They have modern lines and are very clean and clear.
These two books are sure to please parents looking for books that they too will enjoy reading again and again.
Reviewed from copies received from AMMO.
Let’s Count Goats! by Mem Fox, illustrated by Jan Thomas
A manic and very funny counting book that will have readers laughing at the antics of the goats that they are trying to count. Can you count the single seaside goat? How about the goats buzzing by in airplanes? How about the loud trumpet goats? Or the ones in the snow? The talents of Mem Fox and Jan Thomas are delightfully displayed here in one of the top counting books of the year.
Some counting books suffer from trying to maintain counting on each and every page. Part of the success of this book is that Fox has written other silly goats into the book that do not needed to be counted. So the book has a nice flow that really works well. It feels much more like a picture book than a counting book. Fox’s rhymes are simple, offering Thomas a grand place to build from with her illustrations. Thomas takes innocent words and transforms them into scenes where her goats munch on the props. The book is filled with goats doing all sorts of things, drawn in Thomas’ wonderfully simple style that children will immediately relate to.
Highly recommended, this is a counting book that could be used very successfully in a story time. The illustrations are large enough to work with a group and the text is readable as well. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Beach Lane Books.
Also reviewed by A Year of Reading.