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CITY NUMBERS by Joanne Schwartz


by Joanne Schwartz & photographed by Matt Beam

Age Range: 10 & up

Pub Date: May 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-55498-081-9
Publisher: Groundwood

The team that gave us City Alphabet (2009) takes on urban numbers in the same inventive way, still holding readers at a slight emotional distance. Beam takes pictures. He sees numbers everywhere: painted on Dumpsters, printed on cardboard, burnt into metal, carved in stone. This book is not for children just learning their numbers. Instead of presenting a simple 1-20 sequence, it starts with a row of zeros, continue with 1/2, find 2.5 percent in neon in a loan-office window, double-O seven in a metal road plate, 18 kg on a bag of garden rocks. Schwartz adds the utterly clear and utterly brief text: each number spelled out and a description ("Eleven / Spray-painted on cement. / Sidewalk"). The photographs are gritty and textured, always showing the odd angle or the slant light. The numerals as they are printed are a dropped-out image on a white ground: The number nine is the translucent, iridescent blue of the vinyl sticker on a storefront; the final image of a cardboard barcode reflects the same worn and stained paper. Like the first, this is more an artist’s book than one for little children, but it does effectively invite readers to enjoy close and repeated examination of the form, shape and whimsy of numbers. (Picture book. 10 & up)