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Uplifting Picture Books That Don't Preach
My First Flip-Flap Book of Numbers
My First Flip-Flap Book of Numbers
by , illustrated by Robert Salanitro
Educational Publishing,(June 2008)
The Early Start series helps parents, caregivers, and educators create discussions with a young child as they read to them, which helps develop the child's language and vocabulary, all while providing fun for the child. When the publisher first contacted me to review this new series, I wasn't feeling enthusiastic. Though I was interested in the idea of books that would help parents and educators more easily interest children in reading, the thought of using non-fiction as the vehicle didn't seem to fit. I think non-fiction often isn't as interesting or as fun as fiction. But the Early Start series changed my mind. Non-fiction can be fun and innovative, and engage both the child and the parent.
My First Flip-Flap Book of Numbers takes a young child (from birth to age three) through the numbers one to ten. On each page, there is the number, both the digit and the spelled-out word, and the object (one ball, two umbrellas), as well as a flap that either folds up or down. What brings such fun and delight to this book is that every flap brings a visual and cognitive surprise--once unfolded, you see characters engaged with or using the object, much more fun than an inanimate object on the page. For instance, for one ball, you see a rainbow beach ball. Lift the flap, and you see a happy elephant balancing on top of the ball. For two umbrellas, you see the open umbrellas. Lift the flap, and you see two smiling ducks in yellow raincoats and rain hats, each holding an umbrella. Three boxes turn into jack-in-the-boxes. Five ladders end up with fire fighters on the ladders. You never know what to expect--and that is a key part of the fun. It's also great fun for young children to lift the flaps themselves, which helps them actively engage with the books--although that alone would not be satisfying, without the real surprises behind them. The surprises are fun and satisfying.
The illustrations are simple and look digitally produced, each object or series of object on a flat, single-color background. The images have no depth, and look like digital cut-outs. The illustrations do not wow me, but they are bright and cheerful, with smiling faces, and use a lot of primary colors (as well as other hues). Similar designs are used within a single illustration, yet are varied--such as the diamond-and-circle designs on the jack-in-the-boxes, which have the same diamond-and-circles but use different colors. This helps create visual interest.
Many of the objects featured in the pages are usually associated with lightness and play, such as helium balloons, beach balls, bright flowers, and this brings a cheerfulness to the book. Some objects may also initiate discussion, such as the unicycles, which may intrigue young children.
The book itself is a board book, making it durable for young children, easy to hold, and the flaps should hold up to some wear and tear.
Unique to this series are the added instructions for parents or educators found on each spread, telling them how to engage the child, and encourage them. The instructions help tell the adult reader how to become a good reader to a child: "Count along with your child and gradually lower your voice. 'One, two, three, four...' Praise." For new parents or for people who have not been read to themselves, this may be a real gift. It may also be a good reminder for others.
The opening spread also includes some helpful instructions and reminders, such as to have fun reading with your child and they'll want to read again, and to praise the child and be specific, which will help build self-confidence and self-esteem. I heartily agree with the suggestions. Book lovers already intuitively know those things, but they're important enough and true enough that it's good to see them in print. And such instructions will encourage parents to truly interact with their children and spend time reading to them. I can see these books being especially useful to young parents or to parents who may have been brought up on TV and not books. Anything that gets parents more involved in reading to their children and interacting with them is a good thing, I think--and this series is made for that.
Other books in this series, such as My First Wheel Book of Colors, include flaps, wheels, and pull out tags, bringing more reader interaction and fun. The one other book I looked at, My First Wheel Book of Colors, doesn't work quite as well as My First Flip-Flap Book of Numbers, since the flaps hide something predictable--the same color as that discussed on the page, and just a rectangle of color, nothing visually interesting. But the wheel will bring both fun and reader interaction, and should bring smiles.
My First Flip-Flap Book of Numbers looks like a lot of fun--something that will stimulate a young child, and encourage the parent or educator to take an active role as well. It's sure to bring laughter and smiles to young readers. Recommended.
-Added May 31, 2008
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