CM . . .
. Volume XVI Number 31. . . .April 16, 2010
Counting on Snow, the book's title being a play on words, is not your typical counting book. While most counting books count "up" from one to the book's terminal number, this one goes in the opposite direction and begins with 10 caribou and concludes with one moose. As its objects for counting, the book, with its brief, alliterative text, does not use things that would normally be found within the experiential background of the audience suggested by the publisher, children ages 2-5. Instead, all 10 different animals can be found in the Arctic, though not all of them, such as wolves and ravens, are necessarily limited to this geographic region.
If there's one thing that you can count on in most of Canada (and not just the Arctic), it's snow, often in the form of storms. Upon opening Counting on Snow, readers first encounter 10 caribou munching on some Arctic grasses, and when the page is turned, all of the caribou are facing away and apparently walking off. Readers next meet 9 muskox, and the largely clear sky that the caribou had enjoyed has now clouded over and snow flakes are beginning to fall. With each turn of the page, another animal grouping is encountering more snow until a lone moose, the book's final animal, is rendered almost invisible by the falling snow. On the book's penultimate page, the snow, although apparently falling softly, as opposed to being wind-driven, is so heavy that no living things can be distinguished. Newhouse's illustrations are particularly effective in capturing the "essence" of the animals he has selected. For example, one can almost hear the raucous honking of the 7 trumpeter swans and or watch the lumbering gait of the 3 polar bears.
As a read-to book, Counting on Snow might work with the publisher's suggested audience of two- to five-year-olds, but, as a book for independent "counting," I think it requires a slightly older audience or some adult assistance. Younger "readers" would likely encounter some difficulty in counting the animals in those illustrations where the animal's bodies overlap and/or are snowflake obscured. The second rendering of the six seals will be particularly challenging as one seal is represented by just its head peeking above the water. The book's final illustration is somewhat puzzling as it shows 10 snow-free musk ox forming a protective circle around three calves.
Dave Jenkinson, CM's editor, lives in Winnipeg, MB, where he hopes he has seen the last blizzard of the 2009/2010 winter.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.