1 2 3: A Child’s First Counting Book by Alison Jay

Jay, Alison. 1 2 3: A Child’s First Counting Book. New York: Dutton Children’s Books, 2007.

Plot:  Count to ten and back again through the magic of fairytales. Cover of 1 2 3: A Counting Story by Alison Jay

Setting: Imaginary

Point of View: 3rd person

Theme: fairytales, counting, numbers, storytelling, reading, dreams

Literary Quality: “[O]ne little girl sleeping[,] two soaring wings[,] three little pigs…” Thus begins a counting story that takes readers through the fairytale dreamscape of a sleeping girl. The movement of the story peaks at ten in what what might be described as a fleeting nightmare with the “ten sharp teeth” of the wolf from Little Red Riding Hood. The next spread shows Beauty fleeing the Beast, who holds “nine perfect roses,” and from there eases into more calm and delightful moments of the fairytales. Whimsical oil paintings add to the enchantment of the journey, and a crackle varnish lends an antiqued appearance to the illustrations, perfect for these age-old stories. The little girl can be found in every illustration, as well as an element from the previous fairytale and the one to come. For example, while we count “seven marching dwarfs” we see the pumpkin carriage from Cinderella and the gingerbread house that Hansel and Gretel find on the horizon. The paintings also all contain other things to count in sets of the relevant number — the three little pigs are surrounded by three hats, three teacups, three umbrellas, three apples, and so forth. While counting stories and adaptations of fairytales abound, this is truly a gem, delivering all the allure, alarm, and adventure of a fairytale in a form even the youngest readers can appreciate. A final page acts as a form of index, matching each illustration to its respective fairytale. Alison Jay’s artful weaving of conceptual and traditional story frames creates something altogether new and lovely.

Audience: All ages. A book that can easily be used one-on-one, as a read-aloud, or in a classroom setting. 

Personal reaction: As soon as I opened this book and looked at just the first couple of pages, I knew it was something special. I (and my one-year-old) have been completely captivated by 1 2 3‘s charm. This is a story to read and read again. We always find something new.

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Dancing Feet! by Lindsey Craig and Marc Brown

Craig, Lindsey. Dancing Feet! Illustrated by Marc Brown. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010.
dancing_feet

Plot:  Guess who is dancing on lots of different feet? A whole menagerie of animals! And children, too!

Setting: Imaginary

Point of View: 1st person (determined by “We are dancing on stampity feet!” at the end)

Theme: dance, movement, animals, music, sound, rhythm, feet, imagination

Literary Quality: Energy bounds from the pages of this rhythmic story. Craig playfully explores sounds, movements, and colors in her text:

Creepity! Creepity!

Lots of purple feet!

Who is dancing

that creepity beat?

Caterpillar’s dancing on creepity feet.

Creepity! creepity!

Happy feet!

Every animal’s feet are a different color and have a different dance, but they’re all happy! The sounds each animal’s feet make are emphasized with italics on the page. Of course, these sounds evoke motions — tippity, stompityslappity, creepity, etc. — and offer a great opportunity for children to practice the movements, an opportunity cemented by the final dancers, children who imitate the animals. The patterns of related sounds and repetition of the question and answer format make for a perfect read-aloud. Marc Brown’s colorful collages keep the momentum going. His illustrations of the feet provide visual clues to which animals will be seen in full dancing on the following spreads. This is a story that will get everybody up and moving their happy feet!

Audience: Ages 1-7.

Personal reaction: We’re big fans of Dancing Feet in our household, and have been since my son was just a few months old. The bold collages and musical text have always captivated his attention. The animals and their dances are silly and fun. I love how seamlessly this story brings music, movement, colors, and animals together.