Using counting as a framework, this book invites viewers to look closely at works by sculptor Alexander Calder.
Calder’s art features prominently, with expansive and clear photographs set against a glossy white background. It’s a lovely, well-curated collection of Calder’s work, including kid-pleasing, colorful mobiles, representational bent-wire sculptures, and solid stabiles, a kind of immobile statuary. Unfortunately, on pages with a relatively high word count, the bold, all-caps type distracts from the delicate art. Written as a direct engagement to readers, this is ostensibly a concept book. However, that intent is lost as it alternates between a simple counting format and convoluted directives. The book works nicely where expectations are clear: “TWO PIECES FLYING HIGH!” Where the text abandons the concept-book formula, however, it leaves readers confused about how to approach the task. When counting balls on a mobile, the answer should ostensibly be “FOUR. BUT WHAT ABOUT THAT TINY RED ONE? OKAY: FIVE!” Frequent narrative interjections, such as “SLOW DOWN!” or “PHEW!” further disrupt the flow. A brief section in which the text is more open-ended, inviting readers to create their own numerical criteria, is more successful. The last page provides a brief Calder biography.
This is a solid visual introduction to Alexander Calder for young art aficionados, but the text fails as a counting book as it strains just a little too hard to be playful. (Board book. 3-6)