There are so many books on counting and the concept of number that a new title has to be rather special to stand out. And this book is and it does! Quirky, teasing and ingenious – it can certainly claim considerable originality. By building the book round the conceit of a circus there is a lot of potential for playfulness. There is a mirror to peer into, copious flaps to lift and doors to open. Use of intense colours throughout adds to the book’s power and sheer exuberance. We are introduced to the intriguing, flexible clown bird at the start where he shows the oneness of one. Yes – it’s almost platonic in concept. He is helped by the strip of ‘ones’ repeated across the top of the double spread, a bold numeral and the single bounded circle at the foot of the page. The bold numerals and bounded circles pop up throughout to clinch the number concept on each page. As we move through this intriguing world of counting, the malleable clown bird assumes the shape of the different numbers. He twists into a ‘two’ shape and elongates into a ‘three’, tucks into a ‘four’, ‘five’ and ‘six’. Seven finds him bowing with some surrealist companions and eight finds him rotund to accommodate so many numbers. At nine weariness sets in and by the time ten is reached – well there’s ‘so much to count’. He’s exhausted in spite of the help of a solid looking hippo, a fairytale mouse and some obliging finger puppets.
This is a book many children will adore, but its unusual approach may appeal less to others. I have to admit that some of the people and creatures pictured look rather bizarre – frightening perhaps to some young children. But it is after all a circus theme and we can hardly be surprised by some strange faces and antics. Buy this for an imaginative child and for anyone fascinated by number.