An original concept that begins simply and ends up surprisingly—and somewhat confusingly—complex.
Award winner Schaefer and illustrator Neal team up to create a picture book about the number of times particular events occur in the lifetimes of 11 different animals. Neal’s illustrations—appealingly retro in their understated style and muted color scheme—accurately portray the numeric facts presented: “In one lifetime, this female red kangaroo will birth 50 joeys”—and voilà, there’s a double-page spread of 50 baby kangaroos. Readers (or listeners) will enjoy counting the joeys, sea horses, alligator eggs or spots on the giraffe. It’s all fun and games until the backmatter arrives. Then, facts about each animal (Latin name, habitat, lifespan) and convoluted mathematical explanations of how Schaefer arrived at each of her numbers are presented. A more child-friendly explanation of averages and how to calculate them follows. Readers are invited to use this newly acquired knowledge to ponder two math word problems given at the end of the book. Is this book about the natural world? Counting? Statistics? Solving math word problems? It’s hard to say. A great deal of information is presented, for a range of ages.
Kudos for not dumbing it down, however. A more cohesive theme would make for a more understandable overall presentation, but readers will get their money’s worth. (Informational picture book. 4-8)