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Saturday, March 14, 2015

Counting Crows, written by Kathi Appelt and illustrated by Rob Dunleavy. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Simon & Schuster. 2015. $19.99 ages 3 and up

"Eleven bright berries,
eleven sweet peas.
Eleven for the counting
Eleven, if you please!

Twelve crows hop,
twelve crows sing,
twelve on a park bench,
wing by wing."

Over the past few years I have been endlessly intrigued (and perpetually annoyed) by crows ... what I have learned from books I have read and shared, and from other sources as well. If you want to be astounded, check out this incredible documentary. It takes a bit of your time, but it is worth every minute of your attention, and is sure to give you a new appreciation for the intelligence of that noisy black bird.

The annoying part, of course, are the raucous caws I hear while trying to enjoy a cuppa in the porch on warm spring and summer mornings. We have a few resident crows who make their home in a tree across the lane, and feel the need to wake the neighborhood early in the day.

The 'counting crows' in Kathi Appelt's new book are not even vaguely bothersome. Instead, they are a group of sweater-wearing (even scarf-boasting) that are available with needed help in a counting game. I find them appealing, and I know that young listeners do, too. I have shared their story a number of times. Who knew that another counting book could have such charm?

Their days are filled with fun: scavenging, flying, nesting, hanging upside down, perching on telephone lines, and cawing to beat the band.

"Ten crunchy crickets,
ten green peppers.
Then for the counting crows.
Yep, yep, yeppers!"

If you are looking for books that entice your children and students with lilting rhymes, and language that begs to be read independently, add this one to your list. Wonderfully designed, with appealing pencil and digital color illustrations, little ones will be aching to do the counting, repeat the rhymes, and run their palms over the textured cover! The always curious crows are appealing and well-placed on the pages to give readers ample opportunity to practice new skills as they ask to hear the book again. They stand out in the white space that surrounds them and keeps attention squarely on their jaunty positions and antics.

An interfering cat gives them pause, and sends them off to look for a more welcome place to ply their trade. Counting is the name of the game; these bouncy birds make it a fun time!

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