The Numberlys by William Joyce, illustrated by Christina Ellis
In a world where there are only numbers, everything is very orderly and neat. But it’s also very gray, even the food. Then five friends started to wonder if there was something more than numbers, something different! So they started inventing and they slowly came up with letters. And when they reached the final letter Z, things started to change. Color entered their dreary lives as the letters fell into place. Once the letters formed words, real changes started and the entire world was flooded with color and yummy foods and possibilities.
Based on the app, this is a second picture book from the creators of The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, which also started as an app. Joyce creates a numeric and order-filled world reminiscent of Orwell’s 1984 in the first pages of the book. The text here is very simple, allowing most of the storytelling to be done by the illustrations. Joyce keeps a light hand here and uses humor to show how dark the world is. Who could imagine a world without jellybeans?
It is Ellis’ art that brings this world to life. Her orderly world has the feel of wooden toy soldiers and the five friends are wonderfully different and unique even before they invent the alphabet. The gray tones of the early part of the book give way to jellybean colors that jump on the page.
This celebration of words and books also examines the importance of independent thought and creativity. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
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.
Wumbers by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
I love puzzle games and this book is like reading a puzzle game. The concept is to mix numbers and words to form something entirely new. The book cre8tes a gr8 way to interact with children, who will happily call out the answers. My 11-year-old happily curled up with me and helped decipher the puzzles on each page. The book is made up of a series of different situations rather than a flowing storyline, which makes the puzzles all the more enjoyable. As the book progresses, the wumbers do get more difficult to figure out, resulting in plenty of groans of appreciation as we read the book.
This would make a 1derful writing exercise for students to a10mpt, since it’s a lot more difficult than it first appears. It’s not a book to share with a large group, but rather one to cozily figure out together with one or two children. Lichtenheld’s illustrations are great fun, adding context to the puzzles and a lightness too.
Perfect for children who enjoy word puzzles or as a jumping off point for a fun writing exercise, this book is sure to el8 young readers. Appropriate for ages 6-8.
Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.
Zero Is the Leaves on the Tree by Betsy Franco, illustrated by Shino Arihara
There are many, many counting books published every year, but this book focuses on one number that is often ignored: zero. The absence of items is rendered here in verse and paintings. Children are shown the many places that there is zero in everyday life: no balls left in the bin during recess, no sleds on the hills when snow is melted.
Franco’s simple and brief poetry, done so subtly that many won’t notice that it is a poem, nicely necklaces the instances of zero together. Her examples of zero are simple, everyday occurrences that are made poignant by her focus on the transient nature of time. These glimpse of zero change, replenish, refill. Arihara’s gouache illustrations have small details but also an expansive view, matching the tone of the poem perfectly.
Recommended for use in elementary math classes, this book will get children talking about where they see zero in their lives. It will inspire with the beauty of the language as well. Appropriate for ages 3-6.
Reviewed from book received from publisher.
Also reviewed by A Patchwork of Books and PlanetEsme.