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Monday, November 5, 2012

By the Numbers

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

Several months ago I wrote a post about some alphabet books.  I mentioned then that there are alphabet books for just about any theme you can think of -- animals, insects, foods, vehicles, and much more.  The same holds true for books about numbers, particularly for counting books.  I'm not much of a numbers person myself (I much prefer words!), but, of course, I realize that math and numbers are important things for kids to learn.  Over the past few months I've come across some entertaining yet educational books about numbers, and I thought I'd share them with you here.

Before they can learn how to do math, children must learn number recognition and how to count.  Here are a few counting books that I recommend for young kids and their parents:

Ten Seeds,
written and illustrated by Ruth Brown, 2001

A young child starts out with ten seeds, sowing them in the ground.  But, as any gardener will tell you, there are many things that can prevent plants from growing -- insects, birds, slugs, and more.  This reverse counting book will take readers from ten down to one... and then back to ten again. This book not only introduces numbers and simple subtraction, but it also introduces some science concepts related to plants and animals.

I spotted this book at the library last month, drawn by the sweet watercolor illustration on the front cover.  Though it's meant for toddlers and preschoolers, my seven-year-old Ben (and I) really enjoyed this short story and its pictures.


One Green Frog,
written by Yvonne Hooker
and illustrated by Carlo A. Michelini, 1978

With rhymes, sturdy pages, and holes just the right size to poke tiny fingers through, this is a perfect book for young children learning to count.  Each two-page spread features a number, short text, and a colorful illustration of animals or insects.

My in-laws gave this book to my daughter Emmalie when she was a toddler.  She was enchanted by the 3D aspect of the pages and how she could feel each hole as she counted. Later, when my boys came along, they also loved flipping through this book and sticking their fingers in the holes.


Number Munch!,
written and illustrated by Chuck Reasoner, 1993

Each durable page of this book shows a different kind of animal or insect, eager to eat.  These creatures are so hungry, they've even started to eat the book itself!  (Notice the bite marks taken out of it.)

We've owned a copy of this book ever since Emmalie was a baby -- you can tell from the photo of the cover above how well-loved it is!  All three of my kids adored this book when they were little, from the cute, humorous illustrations to the bold numerals in the corners (1 through 15) to the bites taken out of every page.  Besides helping them learn to count, I also used this book to help my kids begin to identify various animals and the sounds they make.


Miss Spider's Tea Party:
The Counting Book,
written and illustrated by David Kirk, 1997

Kind-hearted Miss Spider wants nothing more than to invite the other insects over for cakes and tea, but as soon as she enters a room, they flee for their lives.  How can the spider convince them that she just wants to be friends?

This is another board book that we've had since Emmalie was young.  It was one of her very favorite books for a long time!  Not only did she like the rhyming story itself, but she also loved searching for the insects in Kirk's vivid, fanciful illustrations and counting them, one by one.  I am sure this book contributed to Emm's fascination with bugs at that age....


Teeth, Tails, & Tentacles:
An Animal Counting Book,
written and illustrated by Christopher Wormell, 2004

This book illustrates the numbers one through twenty, using various animals or parts of animals (such as 16 catfish whiskers).  At the back of the book, Wormell provides more in-depth information about each of the animals.

I first discovered this book at the library a few years ago. Since then, Ben and I have checked it out several times.  We love the beautiful artwork and all the interesting animal facts.


1-2-3 Peas,
written and illustrated by Keith Baker, 2012

A perfect companion to Baker's alphabet book, LMNO Peas (reviewed here), this book revolves around the peas counting -- first from 1 to 20 and then up to 100, counting by tens.

As soon as I spotted this book on display at our library, I knew I had to bring it home.  Ben and I loved it as much as its predecessor!  We pored over each page, pointing out the adorable peas and tiny details that made us giggle.


Counting is for the Birds,
written and illustrated by Frank Mazzola, Jr., 1997

Birds arrive at a backyard feeder in pairs, until there are 20 birds altogether.  A patient cat lurks in the background, but have no fear -- the birds fly away before it can cause any trouble.  This book combines counting with rhymed text and also interesting tidbits about various species of birds common to North America.  

This was one of my animal-enthusiast son Nick's favorite counting books when he was little!  He and I both liked the colorful, detailed illustrations and the extra information about the birds.


Here is a good counting book for beginning readers:

Ten Apples Up On Top!
written by Dr. Seuss
and illustrated by Roy McKie, 1961

Using only 75 different words, Dr. Seuss created this zany story about three animals trying to balance apples on their heads.  They start out with just one apple each, but that's too easy; they keep adding apples until they have ten.  Will the three be able to keep those apples balanced when others are determined to knock them down?

In this book, Dr. Seuss mixes counting with learning to read -- and it turns out to be a great combination!  All three of my kids have relished this funny story over the years.


Once kids can recognize numbers and count, they can begin to understand different math problems.  Like I said before, I'm not much of a numbers person -- and have never been a fan of math -- but even I think the math in the following books is fun.  (Unlike me, Ben loves math.  He got a kick out of these books, too!)

365 Penguins,
written by Jean-Luc Fromental
and illustrated by Joelle Jolivet, 2006

The family in this story finds a new penguin mysteriously delivered to their front door every day of the year.  At first, it's fun... and the penguins are so cute!  But very soon the family is faced with multiple troubles.  How can they feed all these birds?  And where can they put them?  And who on earth keeps sending them?  This book offers many opportunities for counting and figuring out organizational math problems.

Emmalie, who now works as a book shelver in the children's department of our library, came across this book recently. Knowing how much I love penguins, she pointed it out to me.  I immediately checked it out and brought it home. :) Our whole family loved the hilarious pictures and tale of a home overrun by penguins.  This one is on my "to buy" list!


The Lion's Share:
A Tale of Halving Cake and Eating it, Too,
written and illustrated by Matthew McElligott, 2009

The lion throws a party and invites his animal friends.  When it's time for dessert, the lion passes a large cake to the elephant saying, "Help yourself."  Elephant cuts the cake in half, takes one of the halves, then passes it on.  Each animal in turn takes half of the cake before giving it to the next one in line.  Finally there's nothing left but crumbs for Ant -- and the lion hasn't even had any yet.  Ant offers to bake a strawberry cake for the lion the following day.  Not to be outdone, the beetle says he will bring the lion two cakes.  It turns into a kind of contest, with each animal bragging that he or she will bring twice as many cakes as the one before.

We've brought this book home from the library multiple times over the last few years.  Both of my sons love it!  (In fact, Nick has planned out all of his birthday cakes for the next several years based on the cakes they talk about in this book.  So far I've made him an apple walnut cake and a peanut butter pound cake.  Only 7 more to go!)  What a clever way to teach kids about halves and multiples of two!  


Math Curse,
written by Jon Scieszka
and illustrated by Lane Smith, 1995

I wrote about this seriously silly book in a previous post, which you can see here.


Minnie's Diner:
A Multiplying Menu,
written by Dayle Ann Dodds
and illustrated by John Manders, 2004

Though Papa McFay has ordered his five sons to stay home and finish their farm chores before eating, the delicious smells coming from Minnie's Diner are too hard to resist. First, Little Will heads to the restaurant and orders 1 soup, 1 salad, 1 sandwich, 1 order of fries, and 1 cherry pie.  When his brother (who is twice as big as Will) arrives, he wants what Will ordered -- but make it a double!  This scene is repeated as each brother arrives at the diner, and soon poor Minnie is bringing out HUGE trays of food.

This humorous story teaches the concept of doubling in a fun way.  Ben giggled his way through it, trying to imagine someone eating that much food.


Edgar Allan Poe's Pie:
Math Puzzlers in Classic Poems,
written by J. Patrick Lewis
and illustrated by Michael Slack, 2012

Children's Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis has written 14 parodies of classic poems, including Poe's "The Raven", A.A. Milne's "Us Two", and Langston Hughes's "April Rain Song", and turned each one into a math brainteaser.  The book also includes the answers to each puzzle along with a short paragraph about each of the poets whom Lewis imitates.

I had seen this book praised many times on various poets' blogs.  I looked for it at our library, but they don't own a copy yet.  I was intrigued by the idea of mathematics in the form of poetry, and finally I decided to buy my own copy.  I knew, from everything I'd heard, that it would be something both Ben and I would enjoy -- and I was right!  While I can appreciate the cunning parodies, Ben loves trying to figure out the math puzzles.  (And we both are amused by the comedy in the poems and the illustrations.)


While the following two books aren't really about numbers, they are related to math.  Because of that, I decided to include them in this post:

Perfect Square,
written and illustrated by Michael Hall, 2011

Author-illustrator Hall takes one perfect square and transforms it into page after page of interesting, beautiful artwork.  This book helps children visualize shapes and what can be done with them, teaching some basic geometry while allowing for infinite imagination.

Ben and I both loved flipping through this book.  We even tried making some of our own pictures out of a square of construction paper -- a perfect activity for quiet time!


This Plus That:
Life's Little Equations,
written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
and illustrated by Jen Corace, 2011

A playful book of memorable word equations, this is a book that all ages can enjoy.   You may have never thought about these little truths quite in this way before, but when Rosenthal lays them out in her book, you'll find yourself nodding in agreement.  For example, "cozy + smell of pancakes - alarm clock = weekend". True, right?   Or  how about "yes + no = maybe"?

I found this at the library and it put a big grin on my face! This is the kind of math I can get into. :)  I loved the whimsical pictures by Corace as well as the delightful equations.  Ben loved it, too, and we both had fun trying to think up our own equations.  (How about this one: "exciting plot + interesting characters = a book I can't put down"?) This is another one on my "to buy" list.


Do you have any favorite counting books or books with a math-related theme?  I'd love to hear about them, and so would my little math lover! :)

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