Saturday, May 15, 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.

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.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, nor a top-10 list of any kind... just what we've been reading recently and found delightful.

  1. The Water Hole by Graeme Base

    This book is simply brilliant. Animalia is one of our favorites, first the book, and now the TV show that my daughter watches on weekends. However, this book has so much to offer that I am glad it is on 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 - the toddler's favorite is the Catfish that go blub, blub, blub. 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. The 2-yr-old 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 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 a hit with the toddler. 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, and the many aspects we are exposed to, has made this an all-time favorite with me.

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

    The toddler seems to like it - especially spotting the hidden numerals on each page, not to mention the various bugs and animals. I like it because he 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

    Ten Little Sleepyheads by Elisabeth Provost and Donald Saaf

    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.

    In Ten Little Sleepyheads, the one-of-a-kind, cute-looking bugs are tired and start falling asleep one by one as we count down. And, at the end, we get to cycle back and read this book again when the last little sleepy head who is counting back from ten is not asleep... here we go again.

  8. Fish Eyes by Lois Ehlert

    I love the illustrations, and apparently so do the kids. 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.

    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.

    Naturally, I get tired after the second or the third cyclic reading back-to-back, but, by then it seems to have done its trick and am free to turn out the lights and walk away from the gentle snores.

  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-and 2-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.


utbtkids said...

My Granny went to the market - check.
Fish eyes - check.

Also would recommend Ten Nine Eight by Molly Bang and One Duck Struck by Phyllis Root. Big hits with the two year olds in my class.

sathish said...

wow. interesting list.

Choxbox said...

nice sheels!

its also easy to make your own book - just draw/cut pictures of similar objects and stick them and make a book. my kids had one of their own and they loved that better than all our counting books :)

Vibha said...

Very useful list.

sandhya said...

What a wonderful list. Feeling bad that my 9yr old is now beyond these books, although rhyme can be enjoyed at any age!

sandhya said...

Saw a very interesting book in the same category at Landmark today, with wonderful illustrations and a wonderful sense of humour. "Santa needs a wee" by Nicholas Allen. Santa has been visiting houses numbered one, two, etc., and has yummy one, two etc. milkshakes or juices or some other such drinks loved by children. But in drinking all that, he forgets to deposit the gifts. So he goes backwards from ten to one house numbers depositing the gifts, ten, nine, etc. By the time he is done, he needs to use the bathroom urgently, which he finds in house number one. Hmmmm. I liked it.

sandhya said...

That should be Nicholas Allan.

utbtkids said...

Having two kids 18 months apart, my challenge is to find books that works well with both ages. I want to challenge my older one, while make the younger one participate without feeling inadequate. Few books like One Boy, appeals to them both.

While it functions as a basic counting book for my younger one, the clever windows in the book show how one word can be a part of another for my older one.

For example we see ONE on one page and when we turn the page, the window on the next page shows how ONE is a part of the word ALONE. So it is ONE BOY...ALL ALONE.

So even before she turned the pages, my older one was guessing what new word can be formed from this give word. Fun book.

Sorry for the mini review :)

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