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Monday, May 10, 2010

A Few Counting Books for Toddlers

There is no dearth of good counting books for babies and toddlers - be it simple board books or fantastic picture books with gorgeous illustrations and catchy rhymes.

Some place the numeral prominently and weave a picture and text around it, some make it interactive by hiding the items to be counted rather cleverly with enough hint for the toddler to succeed, some present stunning visuals that make it hard to turn the page in a hurry, and some share jolly with catchy text that lodges in our heads.

Judging by repeat reads and pore-over-pictures-alone, it seems like these books have made an impression recently and before they get pushed into oblivion by other wonderful books we continue to read, I wanted to list them here for quick reference.

By no means an exhaustive list of toddler counting books, this is our top-10 list of the recent reads that stand out and entertain and educate.

  1. The Water Hole by Graeme Base

    This book is simply brilliant. I admit I got into Animalia thanks to my daughter's Saturday morning ritualistic TV-viewing. However, this book has so much to offer that I am glad Nana got it for our bookshelf to cherish and treasure.

    The text is unusual in that it is not really rhyming and not necessarily profound, but short and catchy nonetheless. Plus, like die-cut books, the water hole is cut out on each page, progressively getting smaller till there is no water left.

    And, on each page, the illustration hints at the region of the world the animal on that page is from. The hint of a Taj Mahal on the 2 Tigers page wasn't missed by Ana. Plus, the numeral and the exact number of animals can be spotted on each page, progressively moving from 1 to 10.

    And, on the border/frame of each page, we have the bonus of other animals presented as a sort of silhouette, with their names. And these animals are hidden in the picture on that page very cleverly. It is almost a game with Ana and me to see who spots them first in the picture. Oggie is catching on slowly.

    The last page shows which part of the world the animals from 1 through 10 inhabit. This is more than just a counting book. The fact that the water hole dries up was a shock on first read - to watch the animals go away, leaving a barren land. And of course, magically, it rains and rains and the water hole is back. And so are the animals. This certainly cheered up Ana.

    The illustrations are unbelievably stunning. The message about water getting dried up and animals leaving, and coming back after the rains... it is lost on the 2-year old, but, the book has so much to offer visually, that it has become a firm favorite.

    And, Uno's Garden, (reviewed at Saffron Tree), is soon becoming a favorite as well.



  2. Forest Bright, Forest Night
    by Jennifer Ward, illustrations by Jamichael Henterly

    The turn-it-over (or upside down book, as Ana calls it) format, gorgeous illustration, simple text all make this book interesting. But, what captivated me was that, the same animals we see bustling and active at daytime, on the Forest Bright side of the book, appear in the Forest Night side, sleeping fitfully, while the nocturnal creatures carry the counting book through the night. And vice versa.

    It is clever and well-done. Counting the number of animals in each page is made challenging by concealing some of them so we only see parts of the animals we are counting, not to mention the slumbering animals who are part of the other half of the book. In addition, we get to spot the numeral on the page, which of course is not terribly easy either.

    While the text was simple, the illustrations blew me away. Exceptionally entertaining book with amazing pictures makes this a favorite with me, as well as my kids.



  3. Ten Apples Up On Top by Dr.Seuss (Theo.LeSieg)

    Dr.Seuss' inimitable style makes this a delightful read, every time. The meter, the illustrations, the fun of balancing one more apple than the other, and not letting them fall, the friendly competition between the dog, lion and tiger, not to mention the sight words and the conclusion, the joy of working together... the book easily stands out.



  4. Over in the Jungle and Over in the Coral Reef by Marianne Berkes, illustrated by Jeanette Canyon


    As reviewed for Saffron Tree, these books are both well-loved and oft-read ones from our bookshelf.

    The illustrations by Jeanette Canyon are truly inspiring. Each page was specially created with polymer clay, and a section at the back of the book explains it.

    It is no surprise that these two books have appealed equally to both the kids. Whereas the 5-year old pores over art work, reads the words, and drinks in the composition, the 2-year old stares with jaw-dropping wonder at the various animals, their expressions, their stance/action/colors and shouts the numerals on each page as we move along from 1 to 10.

    The last page is a treat: the two-page spread juxtaposes the whole gamut 55 enchanting animals in a lush rainforest (creatures in the coral reef) and invites us to spot them all. Very much like "I Spy". And the clever artist has made it quite challenging for the wee ones to spot them easily which naturally makes it a delightful and engaging activity.



  5. My Granny Went To Market by Stella Blackstone, illustrations by Christopher Corr

    As reviewed for Saffron Tree, this was Ana's favorite and soon becoming Oggie's. I love this book. I wish I was that granny, flying in the magic carpet around the world collecting exotic things...

    The book offers not just a lesson in counting, but in geography, culture, pleasures of travel, exotic items from different regions of the world... this is a book that has many layers, each gradually revealing itself as the child grows and is ready to see it.

    The illustrations and rhyme has made this an all-time favorite with me. Thanks, Nana, and I am sure you'll remember reading it to Ana for the first time that Christmas a few years ago.




  6. Way up In the Arctic, Over in the Garden by Jennifer Ward, illustrated by Kenneth J. Spengler

    Oggie seems to like it- especially spotting the hidden numerals on each page, and the bugs and animals... I like it because Oggie does, and pesters me to read them over and over.

    Using the familiar Over In The Meadow style verses, these two books seem a lot of fun to read/sing aloud. At the back, there are some notes on the animals featured in the book.

    In Way Up In The Arctic, for some reason, the page with the Owls (Eight) seems to excite unmuffled giggles - particularly one small owlet that sports a distinctly inebriated look :)



  7. Ten Terrible Dinosaurs by Paul Stickland

    Countdown books are fun and challenging. We start with ten lively dinosaurs all in a line. As they drop off one by one, we scramble to figure out which one is missing. It is especially challenging for the little one to state with confidence when I pause at "... then there were?" The rhyme helps, of course.

    The dinosaurs romp and stomp, nearly pop, do goofy tricks and crazy jives, until the last one begins to snore. His friends sneak up behind him and suddenly yell... ROAR! Sure enough, this gets the expected response from the 2-year old.



  8. Fish Eyes by Lois Ehlert

    I love the illustrations, and apparently so does Oggie. I am not fond of the text. It feels a bit awkward to read... now, I am not sold on rhyming text always, but, it does help to have some sort of meter especially when reading to the 2 year old. I like the subtle layering of arithmetic concepts so this book can continue to appeal 1 to 3 year olds. The die-cut pages and bright colors are certainly eye-catching and interesting.



  9. Seven Little Rabbits by John E. Becker, Illustrations by Barbara Cooney (Miss Rumphius)

    While not strictly a counting book, we start off with seven rabbits and end up with none. The repetitive words, rhythm, and structure makes this a good bedtime read. The cute part is the cycling back up to seven and getting into an endless loop of reading this book. The illustrations are beautiful, almost magical.

    Thanks to Nana, this book gets pulled out from our bookshelf more often than I expected. And, the repetitive nature makes it easy for my daughter, a beginner reader, to carry on confidently... even if she stops to study the pictures.



  10. The Busy Tree by Jennifer Ward, illustrated by Lisa Falkenstern

    While not a counting book, this has become a recent hit with the 5-and2-year old, as well as me for its beautiful illustrations and presentation. Various parts of the tree are introduced, in rhyming couplets, showing how interconnected all creatures are.

    I am a tree, a busy tree, come and see invites the book. We start at the root of an imposing oak tree, then move to the trunk, branches, leaves... get to know the tree and who lives in it and how they form a part of a greater whole.

    Hear my green leaves as they shake in the wind, Breathing out air for all to breathe in has left a powerful impression on Ana. Along with Lynne Cherry's The Great Kapok Tree, this book has impressed upon Ana the role trees play, while seeming to just stand there doing nothing.

    Also, she likes the part where the little girl sows the seed which turns into a large tree, a busy tree, for all to come and see. Going a full circle.

    I enjoy reading this aloud, taking the time to study the pictures and marvel at the beauty of it all.

As it happens, this list has quite a few books by Jennifer Ward. When I read The Busy Tree first, I was interested in exploring more by this author and found Forest Bright, Forest Night. And we've read a few more since then.

And, I have perhaps mentioned a few of these books on and off here, in older posts... but, rediscovering them with the young one makes it worth a separate post here I'm sure.

[Cross-posted at Saffron Tree]

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6 Comments:

At 7:19 PM, Blogger Praba said...

Wow!! That is one neat list, S! Very useful. How come it is not on ST? Remember the one clustered post per person decision? :)Besides, been a while since we had one! Owe you emails. :)

 
At 8:14 AM, Blogger Sheela said...

Thanks for the nudge, P! was debating posting in ST... but, you made up my mind - will do so soon :)

 
At 5:46 AM, Blogger Kristine said...

Great list - I'll have to keep my eye out for these. We just gave our daughter The Waterhole. It is a beautiful and fascinating book. It has so many different layers such as the number of frogs decreasing in each page as the waterhole decreases. I found the environmental side difficult to explain to my daughter that it's not the animal's drinking which is causing the drought and it's not really about one waterhole. How have you tackled this?

 
At 7:49 PM, Blogger Sheela said...

Wow, Kristine, you've raised a very valid point.

Fortunately, last year, when we visited India, where we have frequent power-cuts and water shortage, this topic came up - about how resources are distributed around the world, how we share it and such...

...and between Bringing The Rain To Kapiti Plain and studying the Water Cycle in school, I was spared any explanations about The Waterhole book.

Do let me know how you handled it and whether it convinced your daughter's curiosity and possibly anxiety.

 
At 3:23 AM, Blogger paulstickland said...

Thanks so much for the mention of Ten Terrible Dinosaurs, glad you like it!

more at www.paulstickland.co.uk

 
At 8:48 AM, Blogger Sheela said...

Thank You, Mr.Stickland, for stopping by... I feel honored! Your Ten Terrible Dinosaurs is pulled from our bookshelf often for repeat reads - we love the pictures and catchy text and the little challenge of counting down. Absolutely Delightful.

 

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