CM . . .
. Volume VIII Number 6 . . . . November 16, 2001
My First Book of Numbers departs from most counting concept books in that it uses a "count-down" approach from 10 to 1. In terms of design, the book alternates double page spreads with pairs of facing pages so that, for example, the number 10 receives a double page spread while 9 and 8 face each other, and then 7 again consumes a two page spread. Until the final surprise double page spread which reveals that there actually has been a "story," the text is limited just to the appropriate arabic number and corresponding word. In the bright, cartoon-like illustrations, an androgynous child is shown playing with a series of readily recognizable objects, such as bowling pins, blocks, cars and teddy bears. Critical to the success of number concept books is the ease with which the child can discriminate and count the objects, and Deegan succeeds quite well with possibly the exception of "three' where the child is shown playing with jigsaw puzzles. An older child will recognize that the object to be counted is the puzzle to be completed, but a younger child may become confused by the pieces that remain to be placed into the puzzle frame.
Providing "fun" assistance to toddlers as they expand their vocabularies is the goal of My First Book of Opposites. Using the same child character as found in the number concept book, Deegan presents 10 opposites. They range from the simple (big/small, tall/short) to the more complex (under/on, quiet/loud). Deegan's illustrations are the key for the young viewers/"readers" to internalize the concepts being presented, and, in the main, Deegan succeeds quite well. Without adult prompting, some children may, however, correctly present "new" opposites. For example, the illustration "bright/dark" could just as easily be interpreted as day/night and "dirty/clean" could be dressed/undressed.
Printed on heavier paper, the books will withstand many return visits from toddlers who want to enjoy the books' contents again and again without an adult intermediary. Most certainly a home purchase, the books also have a place in libraries serving preschoolers.
Jenkinson teaches courses in children's and YA literature in the Faculty
of Education, the University of Manitoba.
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