Move over, worksheets and pencils! The team behind The Grapes of Math once again proves that posing number problems through verse and vivid pictures is a powerful path to math learning. With tides like "Raining Cats and Frogs" and "Amazing Grain,” the poems span the seasons, encouraging readers to look for patterns and symmetry in the playful illustrations. Each poem poses a "how many” question about the accompanying picture of seasonal items, from acorns and hatching chicks to dandelions and icicles. Several creatively convey facts about their timely topics, as in "Not-So-Dandy Lions": 'These lions are a stubborn breed--/'There's never just a single weed./The trouble starts when they get loose They catch a breeze and reproduce!” the simple verse then hints at effective strategies to make counting faster and easier. With 10 dandelions pictured on the opposing page, Tang poses the question “How many plants are still in bloom?" then suggests: "Count by fives the plants you see,/Then subtract the seedy three!" Briggs sprinkles his computer-generated artwork with fun-loving graphics throughout. Summer-themed poems show a pigeon wearing swim goggles diving into a bird bath and a lemonade-drinking butterfly. Any time of year is a good time to delve into these pictorial puzzles.
--Publishers Weekly, Nov. 26th, 2001
Although these math riddles can be fun, there is a major discrepancy between the character of the book and the age group it is intended for. Tang's versified math problems encourage readers to tackle adition and subtraction questions in their head as well as on the page. With conceptual thinking involved, it is reasonable to peg this for six-to-ten-year-olds, despite the ultimate simplicity of the adding and subtracting. Readers have to learn to group objects--and the solutions at the end of the book explain any problems that have been too elusive or confounding. But it is difficult to see beyond these single-case scenarios; the groupings of objects used by Tang are too neat to be applied to the real world, with all its asymmetries. More damaging are the childish illustrations--cutesy, singing gingerbread men, hyper-cuddly bunnies--and the uninspired verse: "Canals and dikes and windmills, too, / Grassy fields and skies of blue. / In Holland spring's the time of year / For pretty flowers far and near." Difficult to imagine ten-year-olds enamored of that.
--Kirkus Reviews, January 15th 2002
Tang again offers a high-order thinking-skills approach to arithmetic (The Grapes of Math, BCCB 3/01), this time concentrating on addition and a dash of subtraction. Sixteen double spreads feature seasonal images that invite readers to group objects rather than simply count them and a rhyme that offers a hint on how to cluster images for shortcut calculation. Pancake-flat computer artwork in a saturated palette has the compositional sophistication of a dime-store coloring book. It's really function that's at issue here, however, and pertinent Easter eggs, jack-o'- lanterns, drippy ice cream cones and icicles are carefully deployed for visual bun- cuing and manipulation. Tang concludes with four pages of solutions to his riddles, with reduced scenes displaying his groupings, and although he intends to help “kids to think through problems rather than relying on formulas and memorization,” his one-solution approach is unnecessarily limiting. This volume's real merit will depend on children's motivation to devise approaches of their own.
--Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, March 2002
Another calculated success from the creators of Grapes of Math. Each spread features a crisp, bright illustration with a rhymed couplet that poses a counting task and gives a suggested strategy. The 16 riddles take readers through the seasons beginning with tulips and hatching chicks in springtime and ending with snowflakes and gift boxes in winter. This ambitious wo