CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 7 . . . . November 24, 2006
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.
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.
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.
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.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.