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"Fiddlesticks! Six? The best? Poppycock!
You want TEN TIMES BETTER? Dial a croc.
I have SIXTY teeth. I'm a great masticator.
(That means I chew first, and ask questions later.)"
RICHARD MICHELSON and the late LEONARD BASKIN show that learning to count and to multiply by ten need never be boring! In a counting book like no other, a variety of animals duel for the honor of the number they represent. Backed up by interesting natural history information, the poems are clever, sometimes even preposterous. Bold watercolors convey the animals' conviction that their number is undoubtedly the best! Children will laugh their way along the road to numerical literacy.
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Richard Michelson (born July 3, 1953) is a poet and a children's book author. In January 2009, As Good As Anybody: Martin Luther King and Abraham Joshua Heschel's Amazing March Toward Freedom, was awarded the Sydney Taylor Book Award Gold Medal from the Association of Jewish Libraries, and A is for Abraham, was awarded the Silver Medal. This is the first time in the award's 41-year history that one author has been honored with their top two awards. Michelson has twice been a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award (2008, 2006 ) and twice the recipient of the Skipping Stone Multicultural Book Award (2009, 2003 ). Other recent recognition include a 2009 Massachusetts Book Award Finalist, a 2007 Teacher’s Choice Award from the International Reading Association, and a 2007 Publisher Weekly Best Book Award.
Leonard Baskin (August 15, 1922 – June 3, 2000) was an American sculptor, book-illustrator, wood-engraver, printmaker, graphic artist, writer and teacher.
Grade 3-6-The conceit to this collection is a little tricky to figure out at first: Michelson has used the idea of multiplying by 10 to present facts about various common and unusual animals. For instance, after a three-toed sloth brags of his digits, a centipede (whose illustration and text are set smaller in the corner of the same spread) proclaims: "Just three? Dear me. The centipede/is TEN TIMES BETTER. Built for speed,/our THIRTY feet are quite a plus./We're fast-if no one steps on us." Though his use of language is clever and precise, the author tries to get a lot into the four lines he allows each creature, and the capitalized numbers and overuse of enjambment bog down the reading. The verses do read aloud well, and the varied and off-center layouts (including a pullout for the final page) are pleasing from a distance, making this a good choice for storytimes. Additional facts, questions, and answers about each animal at the end (with an index) should be fun for individual readers. Baskin's vibrant, eerie, and humorous watercolors are a great enhancement to the intricately playful verses. Though not quite as successful a whole as this team's Animals That Ought to Be: Poems about Imaginary Pets (S & S, 1996), this is still a satisfying title that speaks to the sophisticate in school-aged kids. One hopes it won't be lost in the 510s, as its subject headings suggest.
Nina Lindsay, Oakland Public Library, CA
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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