CM . . . .
Volume VI Number 19 . . . . May 26, 2000
The Cheerios Counting Book
Very young children's first personal encounters with books are often sturdy board books which
sometimes double as unofficial teething rings when parents are not looking. While all such books
should, in the first instance, entertain so that infants and toddlers begin to associate books with
pleasure, some also have an instructive component. Adults often introduce learning to count and
"knowing your A,B,C's" via board books. The Cheerios Counting Book first appeared in 1998
in paper form for those preschoolers whose finger dexterity allowed them to manipulate the thin
paper pages. Now, it is available in a completely revised board format. Through 10, each page is
devoted to a single number with the number being represented by both Cheerio O's and berries or
pieces of fruit. The Cheerio's are presented in an orderly manner which facilitates their being
counted while the fruit is presented more randomly, thereby introducing some challenge for those
just learning their numbers. As the fruit changes in each picture, children also get to identify 10
different fruits. The colour of the number is connected to the fruit's colour and so, for example,
there is a cherry red "1" and a kiwi green "4." The text is quite brief, and that which is found on
facing pages rhymes.
Very young children's first personal encounters with books are often sturdy board books which sometimes double as unofficial teething rings when parents are not looking. While all such books should, in the first instance, entertain so that infants and toddlers begin to associate books with pleasure, some also have an instructive component. Adults often introduce learning to count and "knowing your A,B,C's" via board books. The Cheerios Counting Book first appeared in 1998 in paper form for those preschoolers whose finger dexterity allowed them to manipulate the thin paper pages. Now, it is available in a completely revised board format. Through 10, each page is devoted to a single number with the number being represented by both Cheerio O's and berries or pieces of fruit. The Cheerio's are presented in an orderly manner which facilitates their being counted while the fruit is presented more randomly, thereby introducing some challenge for those just learning their numbers. As the fruit changes in each picture, children also get to identify 10 different fruits. The colour of the number is connected to the fruit's colour and so, for example, there is a cherry red "1" and a kiwi green "4." The text is quite brief, and that which is found on facing pages rhymes.
See seven Cheerios.The book's final pair of facing pages first present the numbers 11-19 which appear only as numbers and words and then the number 20 which is also represented via 20 Cheerios. Likely the book would have been better ended at 10 for the first few numbers after 10 display an irregularity which is difficult for some children to grasp. Despite this minor fault, the bright and visually attractive The Cheerios Counting Book will be enjoyed by many youngsters who may take the real soggy versions out of their bowls to represent 11-19.
Recommended. (The Cheerios Counting Book).
My Love for You
Although the title does not suggest it, My Love for You is also a counting book, one which provides youngsters with opportunities to develop numeracy along with elements of vocabulary, especially the idea of the comparative. Using collage, Roth presents her central characters, two mice, likely parent and child, although other interpretations are possible. Beginning with the title statement, each page or pair of facing pages completes the statement via a comparison. Consequently, "My love for you is bigger than 1 bear, taller than 2 giraffes...." After "5," the title statement is again repeated and the comparisons resumed: "deeper than 6 deep-sea fish, stronger than 7 gorillas...." The closing statement provides both a sense of completeness and security because the reader is assured that the love is "forever." In the main, the animals which are to be counted are illustrated in a fashion which makes it easy for young readers to identify where one ends and another begins.
Recommended. (My Love for You).
Count Us In
Count Us In provides additional possibilities for learning the numbers from 1-10 with the "objects" to be counted consisting mostly of exotic birds and mammals that are rendered via full-colour photographs and cartoon-like animals. While each number is dealt with in a pair of facing pages, the counting task will be more difficult in Count Us In than in the Cheerios book for two major reasons. As the numbers get higher, the entire creature is not always portrayed, and some young children will be unable to generalize from the part to the whole. As well, some children may not realize that they are to include the cartoon creature(s) in their counting and will, therefore, only count the "real" animals. On the positive side, with the exception of "4 frogs," the book may introduce children to new creatures, such as rhinos, cheetahs and beluga whales. As well, the authors have used a mixture of accurate and imaginative language in naming their groupings, and so children meet:
an ambush of 1 tiger
Recommended. (Count Us In).
Miss Spider's ABC
Leaving counting behind, youngsters can begin to learn their A,B,C's via the visually attractive Miss Spider's ABC in which anthropomorphic insects and other small creatures are used to present the letters of the alphabet. Each pair of facing pages usually presents two letters which are presented in upper case and then are normally utilized in a simple sentence which contains alliteration and reveals the letters' lower case appearance. Consequently, "Ants await" and "Bumblebees blow balloons" while "Hummingbirds hide inside irises" and "Jumping june bugs kiss katydids." The book contains a delightful surprise for young listeners for it actually has a story element to it in that all of the insects' activity has a purpose. They are preparing a surprise birthday party for Miss Spider, but that fact is not revealed until the book's closing pages. The bright illustrations will definitely grab a young audience's attention.
Recommended. (Miss Spider's ABC).
Those That Float, Those That Don't
Sometimes board books are used to introduce concepts, and one book having such an intent is Those That Float, Those That Don't. Although the title suggests that the book will show a variety of things that float and some that do not, such is not the case after the first two illustrations. Instead, the book provides situations which are contrasting, but not necessarily opposite. Therefore, there are "those that dive and those that sip" as well as "there are those that leap and those that spout." From the same pair who authored Count Us In, this book also uses a combination of full-colour photographs and cartoons, but, unlike the earlier book, the principal text does not directly name the creatures in the photographs. Instead, the reader must turn to the secondary text found in the speech balloons of the cartoon characters to learn the names of the creatures found in the photos. While most of the words used in the main text, such as "swim", "leap", and "dive," should be familiar to young readers, a few, like "wallow," "spout" and "coast," may be new to others. Reader assistance in understanding the concept word is provided by the speech balloon which uses the word, now bolded, in a context. For instance, "Wild boars, like all pigs, wallow in muddy waters" and "Bengal tigers take dips in jungle streams to cool down." Not a first purchase board book, this one can be used to expand vocabulary.
Recommended with reservations. (Those That Float, Those That Don't).
Bunny's Rainbow Day
Finally, board books can be utilized to introduce young children to the idea of story. In Bunny's Rainbow Day:
Sun is rising, morning sparklesThe friends, a white rabbit, a bird, a butterfly and a ladybug, are together as the sun rises, and, as a quartet, they enjoy the beauty of the flower garden, but, as the day passes, the wind rises and clouds begin rolling in. Finally, the rain begins to fall, and the friends head for cover. When the rain stops, the four friends gather together again, now to enjoy the rainbow's colours. The simple collage illustrations, coupled with a chronological storyline which incorporates a familiar happening, make Bunny's Rainbow Day an excellent beginning plot-based board book.
Recommended. (Bunny's Rainbow Day).
Max's Chocolate Chicken
Also featuring rabbits, Max's Chocolate Chicken is, however, much more complex in both its plot and the illustrations which are rendered in black ink drawings and watercolor wash. While youngsters must listen to the words, they also need to "read" the illustrations which sometimes tell a different story. For example, the opening sentence says: "One morning somebody put a chocolate chicken in the birdbath," but the illustration clearly shows that the "somebody" was Max's father who placed the chicken in the bird bath. Max's sister, Ruby, suggests that she and Max go on an egg hunt and whoever finds the most eggs will get the chocolate chicken. Although Ruby finds eggs, Max discovers more interesting things, such as mud puddles, acorns and ants. Ruby obviously wins the hunt, but the text says, "but Max ran away and hid." Again, the illustration shows a different tale for Max has grabbed the egg and has secreted himself in the hollow of a tree where he eats the purloined chocolate chicken. All ends well for Ruby when father surreptitiously supplies another chicken. Children must also learn to read the difference between genuine double page spreads and those which appear to be such but are really more like two "action" frames from a movie.
Recommended. (Max's Chocolate Chicken).
Since the arrival of his second granddaughter, Dave Jenkinson, who teaches courses in children's and YA literature at the Faculty of Education, the University of Manitoba, has shown a renewed interest in board books.
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