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ONE SHEEP, TWO SHEEP by Patricia Byers


A Book of Collective Nouns

by Patricia Byers, illustrated by Tamsin Ainslie

Age Range: 3 - 6

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-921541-45-2
Publisher: Little Hare/Trafalgar

Collective nouns, or the names given to congregations of objects (be they live or inanimate), are good fun, presenting an opportunity to get fanciful with language, with deep etymological roots to back up your whimsy. 

Flock might be the arching collective noun for birds, but a parliament of owls or an exaltation of larks have plenty of historical precedents, not to mention they grab a listener’s attention. Byers’ collection of collectives is a good start to exploring these chromatic, often poetic compounds. She starts with the singular (for instance, goose), then introduces the plural (geese) and finally the collective (a gaggle of geese). Ainslie illustrates each step with delicate watercolors, with children dressing up as the animals. As lists of collective nouns are readily available elsewhere, it is both easy and pleasing to extend the fun by finding other collectives of the same creature: a knot of frogs, as Byers suggests, or an army; a kaleidoscope of butterflies, or a rabble or a swarm; a pride of lions, or a sault or a sowse or a troop. It might asking too much for this age group to explore the origins of these words, but they simply cry out for elaboration—another opportunity for exploration.

A good if modest (only 10 collectives are presented) introduction—but even more: a provocation. (Picture book. 3-6)