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Saturday, January 1, 2011

Let's Count Goats, written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Jan Thomas. Simon & Schuster, 2010. $19.99 ages 3 and up

"Here we see a drinking goat.
And here a goat is eating.
But can we count
the LITTLE goats,
lost and loudly bleating?"

I love Mem Fox! I love her books, her wonderful sense of humor and her love for kids and their literacy. I eagerly await each new book, and know that it will surely be added to my evergrowing "Mem Fox" shelf in the basement. When I was teaching I used her books to help young children understand what authors do to show us what good writing is. I shared with them her commitment to making the best book each and every time she put pen to paper, and her perseverance to get just the right word, phrase and sentence no matter how long the process. I have used her books for parents and teachers in many workshops and to slake my own thirst for knowledge about children and their love of reading. She is an amazing mentor...and I hold out the hope that I will, at some point, hear her speak. For now, I must be content with watching her on YouTube and sharing her books with all who will listen.

And so to her new book, about which she says:

"What I love about this book—because I try to do it with all my books—is it forces an interaction between parent and child and librarians and children because it says, "Can we count?" Then we get to the end—we should be getting to 10 but the numbers are never mentioned in the book—but there should be 10 goats. And oh horror! We only have five goats. Why? Because we're going to count their perked up ears as they listen to a story. So there is a little bit of multiplication in the end, which makes for added complication and added fun. It is a typical Mem Fox book because it's short, it rhymes, it's rhythmic, and it's repetitive."

All the better to make young listeners want to read it...and that is the start they need in the bid to becoming lifelong literate beings. Jan Thomas matches the fun in the words with brightly colored backgrounds, expressive lovable goats and ever-changing scenery. You will know her work from the Rhyming Dust Bunny books and others. If you don't, get on the internet and look them up, or check my blog for earlier posts.

After each new goat is added to the menagerie, 'we' are invited to count and see how many there are.
That is the hook needed to get children talking and learning as they go. As they read and count, they are also hearing words which grow their vocabulary and extend their understanding of language...pilot, goggles, over, under, terrified, huddled. The ending is superb...a real twist in the tale while putting all the money on the enjoyment of reading it!
I want to end with more words of wisdom from Mem and hope that you take her message to heart, and be a reader if you expect to raise one:

"I am absolutely passionate about educating parents to the delight of reading to their children. The importance of reading it is that it is such a delight. If you do it delightfully, the education follows. The reading of good books—not horrible books—with delight, zest, love, and with regularity is the important thing."

Go for it!

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