________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 19 . . . . January 23, 2015


One Hungry Heron.

Carolyn Beck. Illustrated by Karen Patkau.
Markham, ON: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2014.
32 pp., hardcover & PDF, $19.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55455-361-7 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-55455-866-7 (PDF).

Kindergarten-grade 4 / Ages 5-9.

Review by Dave Jenkinson.

**** /4



Two drowsy catfish,
way down deep,
snuffle through the muck,
then go to sleep.


Three darting dragonflies
hover and dip.
Whiz! Pause! Whiz!
Zoom! Zoom! Zip!


Counting books are frequently thought of as being targeted at very young audiences of children, those who are just learning how to count, especially the numbers from one to 10. However, the detailed contents of One Hungry Heron suggest that this collaboration between author Carolyn Beck and illustrator Karen Patkau is actually aimed at an older audience. A pond in a wetland area provides the setting for the creatures who are to be counted. Each number is treated via a largely double-page spread with a portion of the left page being used to carry the appropriate numeral and its accompanying four-line poem that uses an ABCB rhyme scheme.

     Beck’s word choices are superb, and her brief poems truly capture the essence of each of the swamp’s denizens. Even readers who have never seen a catfish or a dragonfly [see excerpt above] can still get a sense of the fish’s languid movements or imagine the seemingly frantic flight of a dragonfly. Patkau’s illustration are equally superb as each of her illustrations of a portion of the pond spills over the pages to reveal the next of the pond’s inhabitants that is to be found and counted by the book’s child reader. The “Seven gliding snails” line themselves up nicely along a vine as do the “Ten tiny turtles” who are sitting on a log, but the “Eight hoppy frogs with bulging eyes” and the “Nine paddly ducks” do not arrange themselves so neatly, and finding and counting them will be a bigger challenge for younger readers.

     Suddenly, on the 10/Ten page, the four-line poem is accompanied by more lines of text. “Why is there this change?” asks the reader? The next pair of pages reveal the answer: a rain storm is about to strike the pond and all of its dwellers that have been previously identified. While the text does not explicitly tell readers to find them all, they are all there as the rain begins (but finding some will require diligent searching). The following two pairs of pages show the intensifying rain which is now accompanied by thunder and lightening, and the first of these pages sees the creatures associated with the numbers from 10-5 tumbling, dipping, diving, curling up, scattering and scooting to escape the rain. The next pair of pages finds the remainder, numbers 4-1 also escaping the rain by dashing, darting, splashing and flapping.

Helter skelter!
They all find shelter.
Now there is no one to see.

     In the book’s closing pair of pages, the rain storm has just stopped, but the pond is empty, awaiting the return of those who had sheltered themselves in various ways from the storm’s effects. And these pages also allow for the introduction of the concept of Zero. Creating the closing rain storm sequence was a most imaginative way to reinforce the book’s primary purpose while also introducing the idea of counting backwards. On the verso of the final page, Patkau has provided readers with one final counting challenge by including (in scrambled fashion) all 55 of the book’s “critters”.

     Counting book, vocabulary builder, nature book and more, One Hungry Heron is one of this year’s absolute must-buys by early years/elementary school libraries and public libraries.

Highly Recommended.

Dave Jenkinson, CM’s editor, lives in Winnipeg, MB.

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

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