(Cybils 2012) Letters and Numbers

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My time as a Cybils judge is quickly running out, but I still have many, many picture books to share with you. I will probably keep reviewing Cybils picture books in January, because I do want to give some of these books a fair share on my blog! Today I’m focusing on some of the books about letters and numbers.

Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons by James Dean and Eric Litwin (HarperCollins, 2012) is one of those sequels that may be better than the original (well, maybe; the original is fantastic too!). In this story about the cool cat, Pete loves his buttons, but they keep getting lost. With subtraction problems to follow Pete’s increasingly buttonless shirt, this book provides the added bonus of actually teaching mathematics to a young child. The ending of this book is truly wonderful, showing that Pete, the ultimate optimist, has something to teach to all of us. Listen to the song relating to this book at http://harpercollinschildrens.com/petethecat. Raisin and I loved this book.

The mind-boggling question of what infinity is provides the focus of Infinity and Me by Kate Hosford and Gai Swiatkowska (Carolrhoda, 2012). As a young girl stares at the sky, she wonders about the concept. Over the next day, she asks friends, family members, and teachers what they think infinity is. Inspired by the author’s discussions with kids about infinity, Infinity and Me introduces a challenging concept in a marvelous way. I loved the creative ways her confidants explained infinity. The illustrations (pencil and paint?) provide a wonderful mirror to young Uma’s overwhelming wonderings. Ultimately, I loved Uma’s realization that for her infinity means love. What a lovely message in a complex yet simple story! I also enjoyed the two-page author’s note in which she mentions a bit of the history of the concept of infinity and shares what some other kids think about infinity.

Backseat A-B-See by Maria Van Lieshout (Chronicle Books, 2012) is a perfect book for the child obsessed with vehicles and travel! I know my son would have loved it when he was two years old. As it is, he still enjoyed it and I did too. Maria Van Lieshout finds the alphabet in the street signs we see around us every day, from Airport to Detour to Yield. And her creativity shone through: she chose a duck crossing sign (QUACK) for Q and a lodging sign for Zzzzzzzz. Backseat A-B-See is a fun ABC book for a young child.

E-Mergency! by Tom Lichtenheld and Ezra Fields-Meyer (Chronicle Books, 2011) plays with letters by giving each letter a personality. When the letter E is hurt, the letters rally together to help him heal by convincing the world to stop using the letter E. The result is very amusing, and the twist at the end is a nice reminder to all readers just how often we use the letter E and take it for granted. As in Wumbers, which we read a few months ago and which substitutes numbers for phonograms in words, E-Mergencyy! is difficult to read aloud due to abnormal spellings. But you have to admit that a balloon that says “Got Woll Soon” instead of “Get Well Soon” is much more fun! Raisin and I enjoyed reading this book. Since he is a budding reader, he enjoyed finding the E’s on the pages and laughing at the silly letter comments.

Tom Lichtenheld is on a role with the letters and numbers books this year! Zero the Hero by Joan Holub and Tom Lichtenheld (Henry Holt, 2012) is another story of writing coming to life: this time, it is the numerals that have personalities! Zero feels left out from the counting games that numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 like to play, and he wonders where he fits in. In both addition and subtraction, it’s like he is not there! When Zero discovers the power of multiplication, he is delighted, but the other numbers are not, because they don’t want to be deleted. Zero finds he has a purpose when bad guys (Roman Numerals) come to town! I loved the concept of Zero (and the other numbers) finding that everyone has a place, I loved the way Zero came to the rescue, and I especially love the math lesson subtly hidden in a story. My son liked it too, since he’s learned about multiplication recently. Multiplying by zero is the best!

 What letters and numbers books have you and your kids enjoyed this year?

Reviewed on December 5, 2012

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

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