How do I love thee? Let me count the ways!

I always find myself counting (there’s a theme starting here, so work with me…) my lucky stars when we receive review copies of books that we’ve been coveting for ages and we’ve been fortunate enough to have this happen quite a few times recently.

C is very into numbers at the moment and therefore the two books I’m going to rave about in this post are both ones that we’ve read countless (see, the theme’s developing…) times since they plopped onto our doormat.  Both are awesome in different ways, but they’re equally gorgeous and well worth you checking out.

The first book is ‘Ten Little Pirates‘ by Mike Brownlow, illustrate by Simon Rickerty (published by Orchard Books)

IMG_6280It’s not often you see a black front cover on a children’s books and the boys and I were immediately struck by how much this made it stand out.  C and H were both intrigued and demanded that we read this one straight away.

The story follows a group of ten little pirates (shockingly) and it was super to see both girls and boys equally represented – indeed for some of the characters it was hard to say for sure what their gender was, which was even better as you then had no preconceptions about whether the girl pirates would be behaving differently from the boy pirates.  Hurrah!  Having ten main characters also gives ample opportunity for there to be a range of skin colours represented, which thankfully is the case here too.

The plot itself follows the bad luck encountered by this merry band of seagoing adventurers as their number is gradually reduced one by one.  We laughed a LOT at some of the pitfalls that occur:

Being carried off by an albatross while fishing!

Being carried off by an albatross while fishing!


Being gobbled up by a pesky shark!

Being gobbled up by a pesky shark!

and had great fun acting out these scenes ourselves 🙂

I also like the counting backwards idea, especially as it was supported by the rhyming text, making it easier for the boys to guess which number was coming next.

Towards the end of the book the last remaining pirate realises that while he may have made it to the desert island and survived the disasters that befell all his shipmates, he’s now too lonely to enjoy himself.  Thank GOODNESS, then, that his pals hadn’t really perished…


…and that they all turned up to party, pirate-style and share out the treasure.

This joyful book is a great read-aloud treat and this would be the case even if the counting element wasn’t included.  However, the fact that it inspired us to practise counting backwards from higher numbers and play other number games (counting up the rats throughout the book as well as playing a sort of ‘Guess Who’ with the pirates on the front cover) makes it even better.  As with the other Simon Rickerty books we own (‘Monkey Nut‘ and ‘Unfortunately’, the latter of which is written by Alan Durant) this is a HUGE hit in our house..

While we were in the mood for maths, we also fell head over heels in love with ‘Abigail‘ by Catherine Rayner (published by Little Tiger Press on 5 August, 2013).


It’s fair to say that I have been quivering with anticipation ever since I first got wind of this book’s existence.  We LOVE Catherine Rayner, M’s favourite animals are giraffes and as previously mentioned, we’re on a serious counting kick here with the boys.  We were NOT disappointed!

Abigail is a giraffe that loves to count.  She’s not fussy about who or what she counts, as long as it stays still long enough for her to crunch some numbers.


This proves harder than you might think, however, and Abigail gets increasingly fed up with having to chase her friends around to try and persuade them to play her counting games.  Eventually, Zebra suggests that they all count a field of flowers together (flowers being notoriously poor at running away) which is wonderful in theory, but then yet another problem appears.  Abigail’s friends can’t count.  This doesn’t phase the mathematical marvel that is Abigail and she patiently spends all day teaching her chums to master the basics.


Their endeavours last well into the night and when they finally come up for air they realise that it’s too dark to see the flowers.  We love a good fold-out flap (‘Ernest‘, also by Catherine Rayner, features one of our favourite examples of such paperwork genius) and the technique is used to great effect here, providing an immensely satisfying solution to the problem.  It’s so lovely to experience this for the first time that I couldn’t possibly take that pleasure away from you, so I’m not going to show you a photo – sorry 😉

Catherine Rayner’s artwork is simply breathtaking and you feel as though each one of this book’s spreads could be removed and framed to make a beautiful addition to your walls.  The story is sweet and effective and as I’d predicted, the counting element was very popular with C and H. It’s the illustrations, though, that – in my opinion, lift the book from the ‘lovely’ category into the ‘magical’ one.  Simply stunning.

You can read a fab interview with Catherine Rayner over on The Book Sniffer’s blog, which was part of the recent ‘Reading Rocks’ blog tour (our post with the marvellous Maxine Lee is here).

Both these books would make brilliant birthday presents for any child who is keen on counting, or indeed one who needs some encouragement to fall in love with numbers.  They reminded me again what a wonderful tool books are for learning about the world around you.  That’s not to say that I think books should always have some educational purpose – definitely not – but more that’s it’s amazing to find examples of books which help in specific areas of learning whilst also being great reads.  Both these books have achieved that status and we couldn’t love them more.


Disclaimer: I received my copies of these books from the publishers. I was not asked to write this post, nor was I given any money for doing so, and the review represents my own honest opinion.

One comment

  1. I’ve just ordered Ten Little Pirates for The Rainbow Library on the strength of this review. I think the kids will LOVE it and of course I’m v happy that I’ll be able to give them some girl pirates to inspire their play. I’m thinking I might do a pirate themed week – Plunge into the PiratePool, The Night Pirates etc. Can you think of any others I can add?
    Top review, thanks for the inspiration!
    Am so in love with Catherine Raynor’s work and am very excited about getting Abigail. Think that one might have to stay here though!! Maybe I’ll share it with the Rainbow Library. Maybe 😉

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