Counting from one to 10 is the usual math activity in simple picture books, but this one takes on other mathematical operations, too.
The rhythmic text starts simply: “One cat sleeps. // Two cats play. // Three cats? / STACK! // Four cats teeter. / Five cats totter.” The pattern then changes. In a double-page spread, the text reads: “Six cats prefer / two stacks of three cats.” The picture clearly shows the two stacks of cats, an unnumbered ruler on the left, and a matching dotted line to the right to show the equal height of the stacks to allow for balancing. A similar page is shown for nine: “Nine cats agree / to three, three, and three.” Here numerals are shown for the only time, in a number sentence, but the measuring devices don’t appear. When it comes to 10, the author/illustrator sends some cats to hide and some to seek, encouraging discussion about subtraction, and then opens the question: “How will you stack the cats?” Here an adult could help an inquisitive child pursue the concepts of multiplication and division, hinted at earlier. The simple but elegant cats, mostly in shades of golden-yellow, orange, white, and black, with some marmalade tigers, are boldly set against aqua-blue and deep-orange backgrounds.
Thanks to its gentle inconsistencies, this is a book that can expand children’s thought processes. (Picture book. 2-5)