cover image 1, 2, 3, Go!

1, 2, 3, Go!

Huy Voun Lee / Author Henry Holt & Company $17.95 (32p) ISBN 9

Lee's (At the Beach; In the Snow) word and number primer has all the festive ebullience of a Chinese New Year's dragon. Each cream-colored, double-page spread serves as a backdrop for elegant, boldly-colored cut paper figures, a punchy number-verb combination and the appropriate Chinese characters. For ""Three hit,"" a trio of children in ethnic costumes play drums beneath the graceful boughs of a tree; for ""Nine kick,"" a band of leaping, shouting, red-belted martial arts students punch the air with their legs. Old and new blend subtly and gracefully: in most spreads, the children wear modern-day clothes, but occasionally their stylized expressions and poses (especially in the spread for ""Six pull,"" which shows a group attempting to land a huge fish) evoke a much older and exotic visual tradition. For older children, the introductory pages offer a Mandarin Chinese pronunciation guide and some fascinating etymology: for example, Lee explains that the written Chinese for the words ""kick,"" ""run"" and ""jump"" are all based on the basic character for ""foot."" Youngsters will love finding the hidden words within words and trying their hand at writing them. Ages 4-9. (Jan.)