This oversized book consists of 10 double-page spreads counting up from one lion to 10 zebras.
The photorealistic drawings are breathtakingly beautiful, deserving of their large space. The text, all printed in orange ink, consists of the numbers spelled out and short, poetic passages describing each species, and it is nicely set as free-verse lines rather than less attractive paragraphs. For example: “Three giraffes / with their heads in the sky / pluck leaves from trees and chew, / up and down, side to side, / for up to twenty hours a day. / They are peaceful patterned giants / wandering from place to place, / sleepless surveyors of the grasslands. / Three wanderers. / Three giraffes.” The foreword by Virginia McKenna contains a sobering reminder of the reality of vanishing species, and backmatter gives further information, including protection status, without defining the terms. (Is it best to be “vulnerable” or “endangered” or “near threatened”?) Pitching the book to an all-ages audience is a bit disingenuous, as the book lacks numerals and thick stock for the youngest viewers, and the text is soundly in the realm of middle-graders. A large part of its allure relies on its large size and the conscientious design of the pages.
It’s beautifully executed, but it will be a devil to shelve, and it’s hard to see many families adopting it for the coffee table. (Informational picture book. 4-10)