cover image Quack and Count

Quack and Count

Keith Baker. Harcourt Children's Books, $16 (24pp) ISBN 978-0-15-292858-2

Lush, layered, cut-paper illustrations of ducklings in a marshy landscape create visual density that contrasts with the simplicity of the narrative in this attractive early math book. The book ever-so-gently introduces addition, dividing the seven ducks into different groupings. Starting with ""6 plus 1,"" Baker (Big Fat Hen) moves one duck at a time to the right-hand page, so he works through all possible combinations. For example, the lines ""Splashing as they leap and dive/ 7 ducklings, 2 plus 5"" clarify a picture of two ducks diving into a pond to join five that are already swimming on the other page; in the next spread, one duck is on the left page, six are bottoms-up on the right. The artwork often camouflages the septet, making the counting a fun challenge: the ducklings sometimes overlap, or readers can spot them among the ferns and grasses. Baker varies the engaging compositions and characterizes the ducks as a lively bunch: in one scene they play hide-and-seek, and in another they gather in two rings to test out their lungs (""Quack-quack-quacking on the shore""). Ladybugs, snails and other wildlife keep the ducks company. This deceptively straightforward book introduces youngsters to addition in such an unobtrusive, organic and merry way that they may not even notice how much they're learning. Ages 2-7. (Aug.)