CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 13 . . . . December 1, 2017
Combination art appreciation and counting book, Maud Lewis 1 2 3 is likely a bit more successful as the former than the latter. Many Canadians' renewed awareness of Lewis, who died in 1970, may be due to her being the subject of the 2016 biopic Maudie.
In this board book, each number from 1 to 10 is featured on a pair of facing pages, with one page providing the number and a brief text on a solid colour background page while the other page is a reproduction of one of Lewis' paintings. The text simply identifies what is to be counted and how many, e.g. 1 hummingbird or 3 kittens. Since the paintings preceded the text, the co-authors had to identify something in Lewis' art which appeared in sufficient numbers to match each page's target number. In most cases, the authors have chosen well, but there are a couple of problematic number pages. While one of the purposes of a board book can be to expand vocabulary, the correspondence of the new word and its visual representation must be clear. The number 7 calls for youngsters to find seven "dories". In some parts of Canada, "dory" may be a familiar term, but, for others, like those of us on the Prairies, we will need assistance in connecting that term to the red, yellow and white paint "blobs" in Lewis' scene. Six called for finding "6 skaters", and the book's young audience will readily count five people skating, but will they identify a sixth person sitting in the snow as a potential skater?
Likely the first time through, the adult reading the book to a child will focus on the book's counting purpose, but repeated readings can focus on the "stories" contained within Lewis' art, the content of which has an "earlier times" feel to it. For instance, what could be in the three barrels on the sleigh being pulled by a team of horses on the "2 horses" page? "What kind of animals are those on the "8 hooves" page? Additional counting practice is also possible if the adult reader elects to find other things to count in Lewis' paintings. "Four" requires finding "4 blue tulips", but the adult facilitator could later ask, "How many white tulips and blue tulips are there?"
The board book's closing pages carry the text "1 amazing artist", and its facing page has a photo of Maud Lewis standing outside her painted house. The accompanying text has been reproduced in the "excerpt" above.
Maud Lewis 1 2 3 definitely has a place in libraries serving the pre-reading crowd; however, because of the complexity of the art, it should not be introduced as a "first" counting book.
Dave Jenkinson, CM's editor, lives in Winnipeg, MB.