EDDIE AND THE FIRE ENGINE by Carolyn Haywood.
I read this book when I was five years old. I loved it so much, I bought a copy of it recently off of Ebay.
Was I reading a 189 page book at age five because I was a child prodigy?
Of course not. I started reading at age four, because when I was growing up every one of my cousins wanted to become a teacher. And I was their only student.
And guess what? They did become teachers. All except one. She became an interior designer.
So, at this year's Christmas Cookie Exchange, I sat next to one of my cousins who became a kindergarten and special needs teacher. I mentioned to her that I was working on a book about counting.
Now, understand, I had some grand ideas about the illustrations for this book. (I did not write the book. I am the illustrator.) Marbles being flung this way and that - toys falling from the sky - jacks as huge as baseballs.
But ... before I could go into it all, my cousin said, "Oh, yeah, my kids love counting books. Especially the boys - with superheroes. They love to shout one, two, three, four, …"
"One, two, three, four, .."
I was reminded:
Counting books are about counting.
Counting books must be orderly - not chaotic.
Counting books are about interaction. They must have READILY identifiable quantities of objects, at that age. It's not enough to include the right number of objects. You have to make them easily recognizable AND countable - FROM A DISTANCE.
A counting picture book is still a book. It must still be high interest, with character and story. But here, the numbers and the objects and the colors are the stars.
Lesson Learned: Know your audience. See your book through the eyes of the children you are illustrating for. Stick to your purpose. And, STILL, add fun and character and story. The challenge is - make it exciting and cohesive on all of these levels.
Trust me. I will still make all my drawings about character. I will still sketch 50 versions of each page before I pick the one I will illustrate. However, I will also REMEMBER to give kids plenty of things to count! That is, out loud.
One more thing. A counting book is a group activity. That means, counting books are almost ALWAYS read aloud. Kids count aloud - in front of a parent, adult, or a teacher. The book itself, is just part of that experience. So, fellow writers and illustrators, let's uphold our end of the bargain!
Have a great Christmas!
Carolyn Dee Flores
P.S. My five favorite counting or math books of all time!
Go, Dog. Go! By P.D. Eastman
Bears On Wheels - A Bright and Early Counting Book By Stan and Jan Berenstein
One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish By Dr. Seuss
365 Penguins By Jean-Luc Fromental Illustrated By Joelle Jolivet
Tyrannosaurus Math By Michelle Markel and Doug Cushman
BTW, fortunately, I have great text by the author, a great publisher, and a great art director to help guide me through this journey.