Christopher Danielson, author and illustrator
Christopher Danielson is a former middle-school teacher who has worked with math learners of all ages. Armed with a PhD in mathematics education, he creates books and toys to support children's mathematical development. He is the author of Common Core Math for Parents for Dummies and the developer of Math On-A-Stick, an annual family math event at the Minnesota State Fair. He lives in St. Paul, Minnesota.
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A concept book that gives readers the choice of what to count. Danielson's analytical approach to the counting book begins with a photograph of shoes in a box and some guided options of what to count, such as the number of shoes (2) or the number of pairs (1). He consistently includes open questions to encourage independent, creative thinking. Following the example of the shoes, the phrase "How many?" appears on the left with a photograph on the right depicting various foods as they are prepared for cooking, usually three spreads per type of foodstuff. The mostly overhead angle and neat, intentional layout of the photographs makes for clear expectations when decoding the images. Each foodstuff starts simple (a bowl of grapefruits), then changes the items' state somehow (halved grapefruits on a cutting board with new tools nearby) then ends on a more-complex image (the fruit juiced in a measuring cup with glasses and more whole fruit in the background). The penultimate set of photos shows a kitchen counter with assorted items from previous pages, serving as a culmination of sorts to the visual narrative. The ending pages encourage rereads and "new questions to wonder about," such as the fairly abstract, "What numbers are missing?" After an initial read with a caregiver, young readers can easily go back and contemplate the pages independently to make new discoveries. Innovative and intellectually stimulating.
Danielson upends the traditional counting book format by letting viewers decide for themselves what to count. Take, for example, a crisp overhead photograph of a pair of black lace-ups with yellow stitching — Doc Marten lookalikes — tucked in an open shoebox. Counting options include the shoebox, the shoes, the shoelaces. Then there are eyelets and aglets, both of which are defined. Further possibilities exist, too, and the question “What other things can you count?” encourages viewers to keep looking closely. With a page-turn, we see a related picture: the same shoebox, but now it’s empty. Well, almost empty. Two black shoeprints mark its cardboard bottom. “Now how many do you see?” asks the text in large red typeface. For these shoebox photos, Danielson includes explanatory sentences to guide readers. However, for the next twelve spreads — all sleek and tidy — he presents just one question, “How many?” along with an eye-catching, nicely balanced picture. Eggs feature in three consecutive photographs, then grapefruits. Avocados show up in picture pairings, and pizzas do too. Cumulative scenes include all the different food items and the shoes. In a final note, Danielson emphasizes relationships: “Two shoes make one pair. Twelve eggs make one dozen. Fifteen avocado halves make one big batch of guacamole.” Danielson’s playfulness — along with his open-ended approach — will leave viewers, young and old, lingering over the pages.
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Page count: 40
8 1/2 x 8 1/2