First a little boy stepped outside singing. Pete, the shortest man in the world, the long man and a donkey join the little boy in what starts out as a simple journey-but gets progressively more complicated. But the friends cooperate and solve all kinds of silly problems. By tenth (the title refers to a sequence of events), they hook up with an elephant and are off to another story. Appealing, whimsical illustrations add a great deal to this book.
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 2-A Katzenjammer Kids-meet-Bill Joyce hybrid that features a 60-year-old story from a Russian poet, freshly interpreted by a contemporary American artist. The first 10 ordinal numbers provide a sinuous sequence from the simple opening ("First, I stepped out singing a song") to the convoluted 10th "event." At that point, the narrator; his friend Pete; a "man no bigger than a jug"; and a fourth companion, who is "so long we couldn't see his feet," complete their picaresque adventure with the help of some accommodating animals. Kharms's rejuvenated narrative reads like a benevolent, if goofy, uncle's tall tale, with as much singing and whistling as the seven dwarfs combined. Rosenthal's visual hyperbole is the perfect match for the absurd action. Not quite The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship (Farrar, 1968) by Arthur Ransome or A Day with Wilbur Robinson (HarperCollins, 1990) by Wiliam Joyce, First, Second is an effervescent story brought to life by bright, detailed, and expressive drawings.-John Sigwald, Unger Memorial Library, Plainview, TX
With the fun of a cumulative folktale, this begins, "First," the narrator steps out singing a song. "Second," a friend joins him. "Third," they pick up a tiny man; "Fourth," a giant; "Fifth," a donkey; and so on, right up to 10. Each time, they have to work out a plan so that everyone can travel together whistling a song. How can they all cram into a car? How can they all sleep in one room? They travel and they argue and they work it out with a mixture of farce and nonsense and common sense. The text of the story gets longer and funnier as the numbers go up and the convolutions increase. First published in a Russian children's magazine in the 1930s, the story is translated here with a casual wit and illustrated with large, clear, brightly colored cartoon-style pictures that extend the exaggeration and cheerful innocence of the nonsense world.
Every journey has its logistical problems, but they come peck by drove in this absurdist's delight, penned in the 1930s by the Russian Kharms. A gent steps out one morning, "singing a song," joins up with his friend Pete, then with a "man no bigger than a jug," and another "so long we couldn't see his feet." They proceed, though not before solving the dilemma of their varying gaits. This fast becomes a comedy of cooperation, as the bonhomous characters fashion goofily elegant solutions to each new challenge—who rides the donkey, how to arrange themselves in boat and car. From the vicissitudes of this modest odyssey, Kharms—in Pevear's translation—conjures a drily humorous story that shrewdly captures the unique pleasures of working through a problem with other, very different, people. Or treat the book purely as a comic episode, a look at the varied permutations and combinations of a fixed set of possibilities, or an open-ended, shaggy-dog version of the theme most recently sighted in Ed Young's Donkey Trouble (1995). Rosenthal's superb illustrations are an irresistible cross- pollination of the Katzenjammer Kids with the daft tricksters found in Zap comics, situated in flat, graphically sophisticated landscapes.