________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 7 . . . . November 24, 2006


Loonies and Toonies: A Canadian Number Book.

Mike Ulmer. Illustrated by Melanie Rose.
Chelsea, MI: Sleeping Bear Press (Distributed in Canada by H.B. Fenn, Ontario), 2006.
40 pp., cloth, $24.95.
ISBN 1-58536-239-5.

Subject Headings:
Canada-Juvenile literature.
Counting-Juvenile literature.

Grades 3-6 / Ages 8-11.

Review by Dave Jenkinson.

*** /4




Of Pacific salmon there are 5 kinds
and all are welcome on fishing lines.
Pink and coho are two of the best.
Chinook and chum are two of the rest.
The sockeye might be the best of the bunch
for catch-and-release or a buttery lunch.

By using the principles of catch and release, outdoorspeople can release their magnificent catches for others to enjoy. The British Columbia fishery produces some of the finest salmon in the world. While most consider five the correct number of salmon types, some scientists believe the Steelhead and the Cutthroat should be classified as salmon as well.

Five Islands Provincial Park in Nova Scotia has one of Canada’s greatest views. Not only do 90-metre cliffs overlook the world’s highest tides, it’s a great spot to learn more about dinosaurs and lava flows. Some fossils from the area are over 200 million years old.

If you like dinosaurs, Canada has one of the world’s best sites. The Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta, is Canada’s dinosaur headquarters and is visited by nearly 400,000 people every year. The park is even home to a local dinosaur, the Albertasaurus, discovered by explorer and scientist J. B. Tyrrell who made the first find while looking for coal. In fact, he would later find, in Alberta, the largest coal deposits in Canada.


Mike Ulmer, who writes for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, has authored four other titles for Sleeping Bear Press, and he previously teamed up with illustrator Melanie Rose on M is for Maple: A Canadian Alphabet Book. This time, the pair turn to numbers, specifically one through 20 before jumping to 50 and 100.  Those readers already familiar with the format that Sleeping Bear Press uses for its alphabet-themed books, like H is for Horse: An Equestrian Alphabet, will know that the book’s text will be of two types. Each number will be accompanied by a poem consisting of three rhyming couplets, and there will also be expository writing, ranging from one to four paragraphs, which begins by expanding on some aspect of the poem’s subject matter before sometimes going off in another, but still connected, direction. As can be seen in the above excerpt, the expository text initially starts with the poem’s salmon subject matter, then uses the number five to switch to a provincial park, before ending up with further information about dinosaurs, a topic mentioned in the middle paragraph.

internal art

     Ulmer’s challenge is to link numbers to Canadian content, and, in the main, he does an excellent job. For instance, 18 is the number of years that the schooner Bluenose went undefeated in sailing competitions while 19 was the number worn by Paul Henderson during the 1972 Summit Hockey Series. Ulmer stretched a bit with the example for 14, which is “about” the number of days it takes “to canoe down the South Nahani River in the Northwest Territories’ Nahani Park,” but the information he provided concerning what one could see on that trip made the number’s imprecision forgivable. However, the grammarian in me screams when I read, as part of 14, that “Point Pelee is one of Canada’s most unique parks.” Something is either unique, or it is not!

     The text related to the number 12 appears to have a factual error.

In 1946 Viola Desmond, a black Halifax beautician and teacher, was kept in jail for 12 hours and fined $20 after refusing to sit in a section of a New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, theatre reserved for white people. Her courageous challenge convinced the province to pass legislation outlawing discrimination.

     I would have thought that Desmond would have been jailed for refusing to move from the white section or for refusing to sit in the section reserved for black people. [Editor’s note: An email to Sleeping Bear Press confirmed the wording is incorrect and will be modified in subsequent printings.]

     Bits of Canadian history, biography and geography are the principal stuff of the expository text, and the poetry is passable, its content sometimes even somewhat amusing, such as with 20.

Since nineteen-hundred and fifty-three
we’ve had a kind and gracious queen,
whose visits often come to an end
with every 20 that we spend.
And while our nation now stands alone
we still revere the crown and throne.

     Rose provides an oil painting for each number, and the numbers are either treated singly on facing pages or individually via a double page spread. Note that the book’s subtitle is A Canadian Number Book, not “A Canadian Counting Book.” While children can count the “objects” in each of Rose’s illustrations, in some cases, younger children will likely have problems “finding” what to count. Four stacks of five $20.00 bills constitute the illustration accompanying 20, but the overlapping of the bills will probably cause younger children to see only four bank notes in each pile. Because the composition of the “19" painting immediately draws the eye to focus on Paul Henderson’s scoring a goal, it may take some children a while to realize that the 19 “things” are the spectators in the shadows behind the protective rink glass. The illustration accompanying number 15 may also confuse some readers. There are 15 photographs, but, if readers count the number of children appearing in the photographs, the total is 16 as one photo contains two children. As well, in terms of the book’s design, one of the 15 “photos” gets lost in the gutter of this two page spread.

     Nonetheless, Loonies and Toonies is still a worthy addition to public and school library collections. Even though the book has a picture book format, older readers will be entertained and informed by its contents.


Dave Jenkinson teaches courses in children’s and YA literature in the Faculty of Education, the University of Manitoba.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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