First in the Math in Nature series, this prompts readers to imagine animals and plants using numbers to count and arrange themselves.
“Would pronghorns pair up, / line up in a parade, / and prance across the prairie? // With toes like those, / do you suppose / raccoons can count on trouble?” The text attempts some rhythm and rhyme, but it is inconsistent and awkwardly forces the story to conform to the words. Each verse is followed by a separate text box that allows readers to practice a mathematical concept: Counting, ordinal numbers, groups of 10, skip counting, counting down from 10, and halves are among those addressed. Backmatter includes a brief paragraph of information about the featured flora and fauna, but it lacks an answer key. Barron’s artwork is lovely, each spread filled with natural colors, textures and 3-D scenery, but not all are particularly fall-ish. It can also be difficult to distinguish the items to be counted from the backgrounds and to put them into the correct groupings (don’t count across the gutter on the bat page, even though there’s no break in the line of bats!). Finally, Flatt’s conclusion—that nature does not "know" numbers—is just not scientifically accurate. Animals and plants may not count and arrange themselves by number, but that does not mean there is no math in nature.
Gorgeous cut-paper collage illustrations cannot outweigh the absence of a story. (Math picture book. 4-7)