Readers won’t care whether it’s about letters or numbers—they will be too busy poring over the artwork and laughing.

123 VERSUS ABC

On a scale from one to 10, what’s your favorite color of the alphabet?

This book can’t decide whether it is a number book or an alphabet book—literally. Its anthropomorphized letters and numbers argue over which is more important for readers to learn—numbers that “count and measure and add and subtract” or letters that enable readers to “spell and read.” As they prepare to duke it out, their facial expressions (eyebrows, eyes, lips, teeth and tongues) and white-gloved fists and jabbing fingers speaking volumes, one alligator arrives. The number 1 and the letter A each use this as evidence to support their own case. As proof for both continues to crowd (literally) the pages, the letters and numbers begin to take things in stride. By the end, they present the letters from A to Z and the numbers from one to 26 as a team, concluding that, “This is a book about Numbersand Letters”…until the last page reveals a new character. “I’m a little lost. I’m supposed to be in a book about colors.” Boldt’s digital illustrations are zany enough to pull off the plot. Pointy numbers vie with rounded letters, while the animals that arrive are cartoonishly realistic-looking (though their actions and accessories are anything but).

Readers won’t care whether it’s about letters or numbers—they will be too busy poring over the artwork and laughing. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: July 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210299-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2013

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Between its autumn and field-trip themes and the fact that not many books start countdowns from 20, this may find its way to...

PUMPKIN COUNTDOWN

A class visits the pumpkin patch, giving readers a chance to count down from 20.

At the farm, Farmer Mixenmatch gives them the tour, which includes a petting zoo, an educational area, a corn maze and a tractor ride to the pumpkin patch. Holub’s text cleverly though not always successfully rhymes each child’s name within the line: “ ‘Eighteen kids get on our bus,’ says Russ. / ‘But someone’s late,’ says Kate. / ‘Wait for me!’ calls Kiri.” Pumpkins at the tops of pages contain the numerals that match the text, allowing readers to pair them with the orange-colored, spelled-out numbers. Some of the objects proffered to count are a bit of a stretch—“Guess sixteen things we’ll see,” count 14 cars that arrived at the farm before the bus—but Smith’s artwork keeps things easy to count, except for a challenging page that asks readers to search for 17 orange items (answers are at the bottom, upside down). Strangely, Holub includes one page with nothing to count—a sign marks “15 Pumpkin Street.” Charming, multicultural round-faced characters and lots of detail encourage readers to go back through the book scouring pages for the 16 things the kids guessed they might see. Endpapers featuring a smattering of pumpkin facts round out the text.

Between its autumn and field-trip themes and the fact that not many books start countdowns from 20, this may find its way to many library shelves. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: July 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8075-6660-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2012

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A mind-stretching outlook that may help youngsters with change—and will certainly cause them to think.

THE END IS JUST THE BEGINNING

A cyclical take on life.

Endings can sometimes feel sad or heavy in their finality. But Bender reverses this perspective. In fact, the story starts, as a tiny caterpillar tells readers, with “THE END.” A young tot on a bed closing a book looks puzzled. Bender acknowledges the absurdity. “But wait—how can a book possibly start with the end? That’s ridiculous.” It’s not, once you change your frame of reference. Continuing in a conversational tone, Bender gives examples. Some are personal and immediate: “The end of a disagreement with someone … / is just the beginning of making up.” Others are more abstract: “When you count, the end of one number is just the beginning of the next number… / and so on and so on and so on, all the way to infinity, which, by the way, NEVER ends!” Two friends or perhaps siblings (one with brown skin and brown hair in two Afro puffs, the other with pale skin and straight, black hair) act out the scenarios, which are strung together over the course of a day from one morning to the next. Mayo’s illustrations also dance between concrete and abstract, illustrating disagreement with one kid scowling, sitting back to the other, who looks distressed, next to a ruined sand castle and infinity with an image of the two kids cycling along an enormous infinity sign. In a meta-infused closing, Bender concludes with “THE BEGINNING / (of discovering the next book).” A cleverly placed butterfly flits away. The hazy wash over muted tones gives a warm, cozy embrace to the message. (This book was reviewed digitally with 9-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 48.2% of actual size.)

A mind-stretching outlook that may help youngsters with change—and will certainly cause them to think. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984896-93-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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