cover image CHICKA CHICKA 1, 2, 3


Michael Sampson, Bill Martin, Jr., , illus. by Lois Ehlert. . S&S, $15.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-689-85881-9

Martin and Sampson (co-authors of I Pledge Allegiance) and Ehlert present an exuberant follow-up to Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (which Martin wrote with John Archambault, and Ehlert illustrated in 1989). Here numbers take over an apple tree, rather than letters tumbling from coconut tree branches. Launching the appealingly absurd antics is a challenge framed in the familiar rhythm: "1 told 2/ and 2 told 3,/ 'I'll race you to the top/ of the apple tree.' " As the subsequent numbers climb one by one with equal enthusiasm (after 20, the counting goes up by 10s), a worried zero (as indicated by a stray bead of perspiration) chants a refrain, "Chicka Chicka/ 1, 2, 3.../ Will there be a/ place for me?" The climbing comes to a halt when bumblebees arrive, ordering the numbers to vacate, which they do in reverse order ("90, 80,/ 70 fall,/ hit the ground/ in a free-for-all"). A fun twist involves a missing number and zero, who finally realizes where he belongs and leaps atop the leaves, a move that scares off the bees and clears the way for the other numbers to return. Featuring electric colors and an amalgam of basic shapes, Ehlert creates cut-paper compositions as wry and buoyant as the rhyming text. Several embellishments offer additional whimsy (5 wears a top hat, 70 sports long hair); endpapers and jacket flaps brim with brightly-hued numbers. Cleverly calculated verse and visuals add up to numerical mayhem that will entertain as well as reinforce counting skills and digit identification. Ages 3-7. (Aug.)