Do not count your chickens before they are hatched.
The Milkmaid and her Pail
Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted.
When angry, count to ten before you speak. If very angry, count to one hundred.
Counting is part of everything we do everyday. We learn about numbers at such an early age, it becomes as natural as blinking and breathing. If you should happen to think learning to count is not important or downright fun, spend a day with kindergarten students, seeing the look of amazement in their eyes when they master counting from one to ten.
Five-year-old children are not the only ones who get a kick out of knowing numbers. The dubious duo who made their first appearance in A Is For Musk Ox have returned in Musk Ox Counts (A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press) written by Erin Cabatingan with illustrations by Matthew Myers. Mr. Que Sera Sera is still driving his striped companion crazy with his inability to follow the plan.
What's going on?
Musk Ox has decided to spend some time on the page for the number two with the yaks. Being on the page for the number one was a tad bit too lonely for someone who enjoys the limelight as much as this guy. Zebra is quick to point out the problem; there is now a zero where there should be a one and there are three where there should be two.
Never one to not have a comeback ready, Musk Ox assures Zebra he will fix it. His solution is to place a sign on Zebra's back reading, 1 Zebra Kick Me. Maybe that page is now fixed (he has no way of knowing) but Zebra still believes the number two page is a mess.
Musk Ox counters saying there really are only two yaks but Zebra says there are still three animals. That's when Musk Ox begins his biggest brainstorm yet; suggesting the book be changed to an addition book. His mathematical thinking is not what you might expect; 1 musk ox + 2 yaks = 3 hoofed, cold-loving animals.
Zebra begs him to go back to page one which Musk Ox reluctantly does, for about thirteen minutes. Then he's off to another page. Elephants scare him away, he scares birds away.
His numerical musing again leave much to be desired. (Much eye-rolling will be taking place.) Those birds he scared away, think the animals for page six look mighty tasty. As Zebra trots to his own page for the number seven, Musk Ox has other plans.
At this point Zebra is fit to be tied; he's missed his page and landed among snakes, sleeping bears and a dog show. Musk Ox's quick fix is to have them lie on their backs looking like they are ready to make snow angels. Zebra's depression is now full blown.
The book is ruined. Zebra has no page. Wait?! Musk Ox has an idea?! It must be some idea because there goes Zebra chasing Musk Ox off the page and that rascal is grinning from ear to ear.
It is evident that Erin Cabatingan loves these two characters despite the fact they can rarely, if ever, agree on anything. The conversational word-play, comprising the entire narrative, is a duel in the interpretation of what makes a counting book; it's Zebra versus Musk Ox, traditional versus devil-may-care. These two are ready to leap off the page into your presence with pizazz. Here is one sample of an exchange between the two.
M: It's a good thing musk oxen have 4 stomachs, * (Technically, it's 4 chambers, but that just sounds weird.) just like cows. Otherwise I don't know what we'd do for this page.
Z: You also have four feet.
M: So? That's not special. Any old ninny can have 4 feet.
Z: I have 4 feet.
M: My point exactly.
There's not a single corner of wasted space on this title, beginning with the front cover; Matthew Myers takes us right into another rollicking romp with Musk Ox and Zebra. Musk Ox leaves his mark with a less than complimentary drawing of Zebra on the blackboard. On the back cover Zebra is on a scaffolding drawing 1rowdy musk ox + 1 annoyed zebra = 1 awesome counting book. Of course Musk Ox is tucked into the bottom corner looking rather chagrined. When you open the cover there stands Musk Ox, smiling broadly with a saw at his feet, having cut out the "o" so his face could peek through on the front.
Paintings by Myers extend the dialogue and generate enough humor to have your face aching from laughter. Pale steely purple, tones of rose, sky blue with and without clouds, gray, white, gold provide backgrounds for his energetic visuals. The body language and facial expressions match the moods of every single moment.
Depending on the point in the story, the illustrations may be single or double page; some of the singles have Musk Ox's and Zebra's heads placed in cut-out circles as they speak, much like the people on the television show, Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In. The placing of details adds to the comedy; the yaks and Musk Ox are playing Twister, Musk Ox is lounging with a pipe blowing bubbles, in the bear den there is a TV set with a remote lying on the ground, letters piling up near a mail slot and the tie, Zebra wearing a tie magnifies the difference between these two tenfold. As I was trying to select a favorite illustration, I could not. They are all uproarious.
If you are not acquainted with Musk Ox and Zebra you need to meet them as soon as you can, starting with Musk Ox Counts written by Erin Cabatingan with illustrations by Matthew Myers. Expect readers and listeners alike to enjoy counting along with this pair over and over. Then make sure you have a copy of A Is For Musk Ox at the ready. I do believe a third book is planned for the future.
Please follows the links embedded in the author's and illustrator's names above to access their websites. To see more illustrations from this title, follow this link to the publisher's website.