Summary: A Children’s Counting Book
Clare Beaton’s One Moose, Twenty Mice is a counting book to help with learning numbers for preschool. It begins with the following statement/question: “One moose, but where’s the cat?” Each subsequent page continues the pattern established on the first page. For example, the second and third pages say, “Two crabs, but where’s the cat?” and “Three ladybugs, but where’s the cat?” The pages continue counting up in the same way until the last page, which says, “Twenty mice, and here’s the cat!”
The illustrations are scenes of colorful stitched fabrics (mostly felt), ribbons, buttons, sequins, and beads that depict the numbers and animals mentioned in the text. Importantly, in each scene (except the last) the cat is hiding somewhere. In the last scene the cat is finally in full view, chasing twenty white mice!
Subjective Appeal: Engaging, Funny, Excellent Illustrations
Several factors give this counting book subjective appeal for toddlers and young children. First, the narrative structure is very inviting. The repetitive refrain, “…but where is the cat?” on each page plays several roles. Since there is a (semi-) hidden cat on each page, it prompts the child to hunt for the cat. And who doesn’t like hunting for objects in illustrations? (Wheres Waldo anyone?) Hunting for and finding the cat also gives the child a sense of accomplishment and naturally causes her to linger over each page. The repetition also gives young children a sense of what is coming, and thus of security and mastery. Finally, the refrain builds anticipation about the end of the book: “I just know we’ll see the cat in the end!” This building anticipation keeps the child enjoyably focused on the book and creates forward motion, just like a good story would.
Second, the illustrations are beautiful and unusual. The colorful combinations of fabrics, beads, buttons, and other bric-a-brac vary beautifully on each page. And the artwork is so creatively and excellently done that it makes you want to examine every detail. The illustrations are nicely integrated with the text, both supporting and embellishing it.
Third, the book is plain funny. For example, there are several pages where the hidden cat is positioned in ways that make children (and adults!) chuckle. On the page for the number eight, all you see of the cat is a green eye peeking through the lower loop of the eight. On the page with 12 fish, the cat is staring into the fishbowl longingly, as if about to go fishing. The end, of course, is the real punchline: kids giggle to see the cat in full chase—claws extended, smile on her face—as the mice scatter. On the very last page she is sleeping contentedly (I guess she caught one…).
Developmental Value: Educational and Creative
In addition to these elements that give the book subjective appeal, the book also has obvious developmental value for young children and toddlers. First, of course, the book is educational: after all it is a counting book. In addition to providing an opportunity to learn the numbers up to 20, the book refers to 21 kinds of animals—some familiar, and some not. For example, while the cat, mice, horses, and ducks are likely familiar from other barnyard tales, the moose, crabs, parrots, and dolphins might well break new ground. So, if you are interested in helping preschool kids learn numbers and animals, this book is great.
Second, the repetitive rhythm of the book makes for good language learning. This sort of repetition helps children to recognize and articulate specific words, especially via sentence completion. By the end of the book, my guess is that if you simply read, “Nineteen elephants,” your toddler would chirp, “but where’s the cat?” The second time through she’ll be chirping the whole way.
Finally, the book illustrations are incredibly creative. As such, the book encourages a child’s standards for evaluating creativity—a developmental benefit in itself. Moreover, I can imagine a parent or teacher using the book as an exemplar and a springboard to creative arts and crafts work with his children or students.
In sum, I highly recommend One Moose, Twenty Mice. It is a creative and educational children’s counting book with an engaging rhythm and a great sense of humor. It is a perfect way to help preschool kids learn their numbers and animals. I encourage you to add this book to your home library. If you do, please support our work by purchasing the book through the links in this post.
If you enjoyed this review why not share it on Facebook or Twitter? The “Like” and “Share/Save” buttons below make it easy. If you have some feedback on the review, leave me a comment; I’d love to hear from you. Thanks!