cover image Counting Crows

Counting Crows

Kathi Appelt, illus. by Rob Dunlavey. S&S/Atheneum, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-4424-2327-5

Writing a fresh counting rhyme calls for the poet to hear the numbers in a new way, and that’s just what Appelt (When Otis Courted Mama) has done. She tweaks sequences, varies rhythms, and punctuates her lines with piquant sound words: “One, two, three/ crows in a tree./ Three roly-poly bugs,/ three ripe mangoes./ Three for the counting crows./ Three, by jango!” Dunlavey’s (The Dandelion’s Tale) inquisitive black crows are all beaks and legs, with loose-fitting red-and-white-striped sweaters; one fashion renegade wears a polka-dotted scarf. Their eyes bug out as they peer at unfamiliar objects: “Ten crunchy crickets,/ ten green peppers./ Ten for the counting crows./ Yep, yep, yeppers!” The crows’ black beaks and red stripes stand out against the white pages, giving the spreads a crisp, pared-down appearance. By contrast, the trees, telephones poles, trash baskets, and other background features are rendered in delicate, gracefully elaborated pencil lines. When a cat materializes beneath a park bench, the startled birds depart in small groups, and Dunlavey’s final images add a note of quiet reflection to this clever, innovative creation. Ages 3–7. Agency: Pippin Properties. (Mar.)