Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Too Much Or Not Enough

Using numbers for counting is a part of nearly everything we do daily.  We have ten minutes left before taking cookies out of the oven.  We are two miles away from the grocery store.  We pump five gallons of gas into our car's tank.  Let's plant those trees four feet apart.  We are consciously or unconsciously counting all the time.  

We probably don't take into consideration the impact of amounts and certain things, but it is an intriguing way to look at numbers.  Is 2 a Lot?: An Adventure with Numbers (Tilbury House Publishers, June 4, 2019) written by Annie Watson with illustrations by Rebecca Evans explores concepts of quantity.  Readers will discover perceptions or points of view do weigh heavily on what may or may not be a lot of something or anything.  You might want to buckle up and hang on tight.  This is no ordinary ride.

One day Joey had a very important question.

"Is 2 a lot?" he asked his mommy. 

Joey's mother's reply is very interesting.  Two pennies are not a lot, but two odoriferous skunks are a lot.  When Joey's mom swerves to avoid hitting the skunks, they end up on an unusual two-track road with warning signs. (The skunks hop inside their station wagon as they travel through a nearly abandoned library.  How did they get inside a library?  And why did the librarian jump into the back of the car with the skunks?)

Joey keeps asking his mother about numbers, increasing them by one until he jumps from five to ten.  They meet a battered knight in shining armor, a group of wayward dogs and cowboys on a city street.  With the appearance of dinosaurs, the traveling-through-time trip takes on a whole new dimension.  Joey's mother keeps on driving as more and more guests hop inside and on top of their car.

Joey's mind leaps from ten to fifty to one hundred and then to one thousand.  Comparisons are made to leaves and letters, and snowflakes and candles.  When the adventurers find themselves at a hot air balloon festival, Joey goes silent.

His mother, who has encouraged all his inquires, turns to him and asks a question of her own.  Thinking back to the contrasts supplied by Mommy, Joey reveals what he has learned.  He has learned, as have readers, a lot!

With every question and two-part answer given, readers learn about the concept of point of view and comparison.  This story, told through dialogue and some narrative, by debut picture book author, Annie Watson, is certain to have readers alternately laughing and thinking about the conversation between Joey and his mother.  Through choice of words author Annie Watson supplies opportunities for expanded thinking.  She also allows readers to see how asking questions of a caring adult is a wonderful way to get great answers.  Here is a passage.

"What about 4?" asked Joey.

"Is 4 a lot?"

His mommy smiled.
"FOUR is not a lot of children
in a school bus," she answered,
"but it is a lot of dogs to walk at once."

Looking at the front and back of the open and matching dust jacket and book case announces to readers this is an extraordinary book about numbers. How often are dinosaurs, running dogs, skunks. hot air balloons, cowboys, dinosaurs, a stuffed toy owl and a parent and child traveling in their station wagon shown together?  The bright color palette leaning toward primary colors welcomes readers.

To the left, on the back, the car driving toward readers is placed in the center of what appears to be a desert.  Two hungry, or at the very least, angry dinosaurs are chasing anything that moves.  Two royal soldiers, two cowboys on horses (one is a girl with braided pigtails flying behind her) two skunks, and two dogs are all running alongside the car.  Joey is one happy little boy.  Mommy is consulting a map.  (I don't think there's a map for where she is.)  A bumper sticker on the front of the car reads:

2 FAST . . .

The vivid sky blue from the jacket and case is used to cover the opening and closing endpapers.  Artist Rebecca Evans starts her pictorial interpretation on the title page showing Joey and his mother walking from their home to the station wagon.  On the verso and dedication pages we move closer to the car.  Mommy is buckling Joey into his car seat.  Joey is carrying a book which looks very familiar.  

With each page turn readers are given visual displays of two-page pictures, or two-page pictures with panel insets, some of them in a series.  Readers will want to stop and look carefully at each illustration especially after the warning signs when Mommy veers off the main road. Rebecca Evans infuses humor in each image.  Readers will be laughing out loud at the details in the settings, and facial expressions and actions of all the characters. 

The carry-over from one scene to the next is splendid.  It presents a continuous flow of motion.  The hilarity increases as the station wagon moves from one geographic location to the next while trekking through history.

One of my many favorite illustrations is at the beginning.  The daylight on the drive Joey and his mother are taking dims as the car avoids hitting the two skunks and takes a dirt road on their left.  This scene takes up all two pages with the car, road and skunks on the left and the darkening forest on the right.  Two warning signs are posted at the entrance to the dirt road.  A vertical inset shows the back of the car as it goes down the road.  The two skunks are scampering along behind it.  On the left is another warning sign.  Dinosaurs?  I can already hear the giggling and laughter of readers.

This book most certainly will engage readers in thoughtful thinking about numbers, counting, perspective and comparison.  Is 2 a Lot?: An Adventure with Numbers written by Annie Watson with illustrations by Rebecca Evans is brimming with action depicted in words and fantastical illustrations.  I know your personal and professional collections will be enhanced by having a copy of this title.

To learn more about Annie Watson and Rebecca Evans and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their respective websites.  There is a classroom connection guide at Annie Watson's website.   Annie Watson has an account on Facebook.  Rebecca Evans has accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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