A counting book finds “ONE white bear” facing off against an increasing number of different creatures in a contest of size.
With so many creative and interesting counting books available, a new endeavor in this genre must work hard to stand out from the crowd. This French import seems to run out of steam before it has barely begun. The illustrations are flat, two-color monoprints with stylized, hard-to-distinguish animal shapes. A large white bear stands glumly on an ice floe. “I’m very big!” he announces. “I’m almost a giant!” Two walruses swim up, challenging his size by standing one atop the other. This joke is repeated with three foxes (unlikely residents of an ice floe!), four sea lions, five penguins (even more unlikely, assuming the ice floe is in the Arctic), and six sardines, the last of which unsurprisingly are consumed by the bear on the last page. The goal is apparently to teach very simple addition: each vertical pile of animals is notated as an arithmetical equation, such as ONE + ONE + ONE, but the exercise abruptly concludes at six, not even bothering to get to 10. Numerical notation is not used, and this half-hearted, didactic attempt risks confusion rather than enlightenment.
Lacking bounce and any real originality, this big bear falls flat on the ice. (Picture book. 3-6)