cover image Arithmetic


Carl Sandburg. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P, $17 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-15-203865-6

Sandburg's classic poem has timeless appeal for all those, young and old, who have ever struggled with the seeming intractibility of math (``Arithmetic is where numbers fly like pigeons in and out of your head'') or fretted over convoluted word problems (``Arithmetic tells you how many you lose or win if you know how many you had before you lost or won'')--its language remains fresh and fanciful to this day. Here, however, it is paired with anamorphic illustrations (ones whose images appear misshapen when viewed normally), which fascinate in their own right but tend to dwarf the text. Rand's boldly colored mixed-media images impart their own humor and plentiful energy. Experimenting with ways in which different viewing techniques resolve the picture's distortions is an absorbing experience, one that invites imaginative consideration of how we perceive our world at large. But the physical manipulations of the book thus required make it all but impossible to hold the thread of the text from one page to the next, and reading inevitably becomes largely an exercise in viewing. Children may be inspired, using the appended directions, to create their own anamorphic pictures, but they are less likely to gain an appreciation of Sandburg's verse. Ages 8-up. (Apr.)