An energetic magician frustrates a staid counter’s endeavor to quantify a herd of elephants.
Written entirely in scripted dialogue, this odd effort takes middling passes at both humor and counting. The Counter’s metafictional announcement—that this is a counting book—is immediately contradicted by the Magician, who insists they are collaborating on magic, not math. Clad in the traditional black-and-red top hat and cape, the Magician begins transforming the gathered group of 10 elephants before the Counter even commences. Each time an attempt to enumerate begins, the Magician alters another elephant: The first becomes a frog; the second, a jar of peanut butter; the third, one of jelly; the fourth through seventh, some puppies; the eighth and ninth, more frogs; and the 10th, a rabbit. After restoring the elephants, the Magician turns the exasperated Counter into an anthropomorphic bag of (literal) “nuts.” In a genre distinguished by clever variations on a theme, these conceits—counting down rather than up and adding across categories to arrive at a total—just don’t tally, as the target age proves ambiguous. Solis’ digitally created images, which recall 1950s-era animation, teeter on the boundary between warm familiarity and generic boredom, with animated facial expressions lending them some exuberance. The text placement doesn’t always correspond with illustrations, hindering the counting exercise. Human characters are both white.
Another average addition to an exponentially growing field. (Picture book. 3-7)