THE NUMBERLYS by William Joyce


Age Range: 4 - 7
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A successful app makes a transition to print.

Joyce and Ellis’ Moonbot Studios fable about an evolution in thinking loses something in the translation from tablet to print, despite its 50-plus–page length. A vast, somber art deco metropolis rendered in straight lines and monochromatic grays and browns houses a world of numbers and gears: “[E]verything added up.” Five little beings, sporting round eyes and round heads (some with antennae), want “MORE.” They design and manufacture a familiar, Western alphabet from the forms of numbers. Upon completion of the Z, the letters, bright with color, form the words of new, appealing ideas (“jellybeans,” “yellow,” “pizza”), even names. Numbers disappear altogether; the world transforms to full color. Young readers—and significant adults—frequently look for books to extend screen-based story experiences. The opportunity to look more closely at the Numberlys’ world is definitely an attraction. But the visual richness isn’t matched by the insubstantial plot, and suggesting that numbers aren’t beautiful or that the sole source of color and fun is our alphabet seems trite and misguided. Much of the book requires turning pages vertically as if opening a calendar, matching the tall cityscape but making shared reading awkward.

Neither the picture-book medium nor the Numberlys app is as well-served as each deserves. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 27th, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-4424-7343-0
Page count: 56pp
Publisher: Atheneum
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 2014


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