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SNHughes By SNHughes Published on November 19, 2016

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Ages: 0-2

Although small, this patterned concept book accomplishes much.  Its primary purpose is to introduce counting to five, but it offers considerably more.  Excellent for bilingual learners, one side of the book presents English text and the other Spanish.  As a board book folded into an accordion, young hands will experience pulling it out to make it long, pushing it in to make it short, and turning the pages.  Each page adds one elephant balancing on a spider's web, and repeats two short, rhyming, rhythmic, and musical verses.  The repetition allows children to predict what number comes next and to read or sing along with an older reader.  The spider appears in different locations creating an I-Spy game, and the black, white, and gray palette makes the large, colorful numbers pop out and beg for naming.  An absurd and humorous tone carries throughout the book.  The idea of elephants balancing on a spider's web is ironic, and they hearken to clowns performing a high-wire circus act.  The verbal narrative, "balanced so elegant," is incongruous to the wobbling elephants, and the illustrations are comic and silly.  Ample white space limits distraction and keeps the focus on the primary theme of counting; unframed illustrations have unbound energy and invites the reader into the book.  The addition of the fifth elephant makes the web snap and creates an opportunity to teach cause and effect.   In the pages of elephants one through four, the eye naturally follows the continuous line of the web, and the illustrations become progressively distant in view.  On the addition of the fifth elephant, the line suddenly breaks, the view becomes a close-up, and the all-around disruption in the visual and graphic continuity creates a surprising and exciting end to the story.

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