Picture Book Snob
A joyful celebration of the natural world
Counting Creatures by Julia Donaldson and Sharon King-Chai
Counting Creatures is not an ordinary counting book - it's an absolutely stunning work of art. We meet a succession of animals and their young. Each has one more baby than the last and we count their offspring as the narrative progresses. The babies are hidden under die-cut flaps and the book is cleverly designed to give glimpses of what's concealed. The flaps are sturdy and ideal for curious little hands to explore themselves.
The text is simple but lyrical with lots of rhyming, repetition, alliteration and action and sound words that appeal to small children. Little readers will also love the interactive aspects of the book; not just the counting but finding the tiny spiders dotted throughout it. This is extremely informative too and I learned a lot myself! For instance, I had no idea butterflies produce as many as 20 caterpillars, bats have just one baby at a time, or that young turkeys are called poults.
As for the illustrations, not only are they perfect for grabbing the attention of little readers, they are exceptionally beautiful and will be appreciated by adults too. Brightly coloured and ornate, the images are incredibly striking and I could look at them all day (which sometimes happens when a book is requested repeatedly here). Even the title pages and endpapers are fabulous and I love how the front cover is die-cut to partially reveal the latter.
One of my favourite parts is the endpapers at the beginning of the book. It's brilliant how they show lots of animal couples, hinting at the circle of life and the courtships necessary for the next generation to emerge. The pair of frogs embracing on a lily-pad are particularly adorable. There are lots more delightful details within the book. Some examples are how ducklings are shown under water, mice are nestled in a pile of leaves and a bat is tucked under its mother's wing.
Counting Creatures would make a gorgeous gift for a new baby or to mark any special occasion. My three-year-old absolutely loves this; they spotted it in a bookshop and were thrilled when it arrived via the North Pole. Although the five-year-old says dismissively that this book is "for babies," they always hover nearby and steal glances when it's being read to their younger sibling.
Julia Donaldson is one of the world's best-known authors. I hadn't shared any of her books before although we have quite a few and my children enjoy them. Tabby McTat was one of my eldest's favourite's when they were a toddler. As most people are familiar with Donaldson's work and she is given plenty of space in bookshops, I hadn't featured her here until now. I usually post about less famous works and their creators, who might not get as much attention.
Counting Creatures demands making an exception to this rule, however! If you already have lots of Donaldson's books, you may think you don't need another, but this is unlike anything I've seen by this author. Animal Alphabet was illustrated by the same artist, Sharon King-Chai, and I'm going to have to get hold of this one too!
Sharon King-Chai is an innovative and award-winning illustrator who has worked as a designer in the music and advertising industries as well as in publishing. After falling in love with Counting Creatures, I had to get hold of Starbird, which Sharon King-Chai wrote as well as illustrated. It's exquisite too and I'll share a review soon.
Counting Creatures is a joyful celebration of the natural world and bursting with life. Every single page is a vibrant exploration of flora and fauna and a wonderful tribute to all kinds of wildlife, even spiders. This is, without a doubt, one of the most interesting and attractive books we own.
Read how Julia Donaldson conquered the world in this article from The Guardian
Title: Counting Creatures
Author: Julia Donaldson
Illustrator: Sharon King-Chai
Publisher: Two Hoots
Publication Date: 5th November 2020