Nine Animals and the Well

Overview

Who hasn’t gone to a birthday party and had “present envy”? Who hasn’t felt the pride of thinking of just the right gift, only to find out that someone else has thought of a better one? Who hasn’t had to learn the hard way that the greatest gift of all is friendship? This is the lesson the nine animals are about to learn as they make their way to the palace to celebrate the raja-king’s birthday. Why nine animals? And why the well? Because James Rumford’s original fable is also a counting book, where we learn that...

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Overview

Who hasn’t gone to a birthday party and had “present envy”? Who hasn’t felt the pride of thinking of just the right gift, only to find out that someone else has thought of a better one? Who hasn’t had to learn the hard way that the greatest gift of all is friendship? This is the lesson the nine animals are about to learn as they make their way to the palace to celebrate the raja-king’s birthday. Why nine animals? And why the well? Because James Rumford’s original fable is also a counting book, where we learn that our ten Arabic numerals came not from Arabia, as one might think, but from India.
With its pictures of paper collage reminiscent of the glorious designs on the walls of the Taj Mahal, Nine Animals and the Well will teach, amuse, and delight.

A fable about a group of animals which strives to bring the perfect present to the Indian raja-king's birthday party. Discusses how the numerals we use originated in India.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A captivating fable and an effective counting book.” School Library Journal, Starred

“This is a rich picture book that can be used on many levels, whether telling stories, teaching math, or discussing history.” The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

“The truest show of skill does not belong to the agile animals or even to the Monkey…but to Rumford for concocting this dexterous fable and number lesson.” Horn Book

“Children will delight in this tale and its vibrant collage illustrations, decorated and refined with brush, pen, and pencil.” Kirkus Reviews

“Stripes and mottled shading and texture, and the palette of complementary greens and reds supplies both harmony and contrast.” Publishers Weekly

“A delightful way to incorporate literature, social studies, and art into an elementary math curriculum” Book Links, ALA

Publishers Weekly
Even with its finely crafted collage illustrations and intriguing facts about the origin of so-called Arabic numerals, Rumford's (There's a Monster in the Alphabet) counting book adds up to less than the sum of its parts. Invited to a birthday party for the young raja-king, each of nine animals in turn discards his gift in favor of joining in another animal's more desirable present. Thus Monkey throws away his one loaf of bread and shares Rhino's gift of two mangoes, which is soon obscured by Camel's three cakes, etc.; readers young enough to enjoy the predictable plot are likely to be put off by the drawn-out storytelling. The sophisticated collages, on the other hand, will have broad appeal. Rumsford renders the animals in translucent papers, which he embellishes with brush, pen and pencil. Stripes and mottled shading add texture, and the palette of complementary greens and reds supplies both harmony and contrast. Handmade flower-petal paper backs the collage compositions, intensifying the visual interest. Margins house the numeral featured in each spread, pictured in its European, North African, Arabic and initial Indian forms. The evolution of the numerals, however, is not integral to the story, and the introduction and endnote, which explain this history, feel tacked on. Ages 5-10. (May) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
The story of how numbers came to the West is the foundation for this fable. It was the (Asian) Indians who invented the ten symbols we use for counting. The Arabs got them from the Indians and the Europeans got them from the Arabs. The Europeans called them "Arabic numerals," the Arabs called them "Indian numerals" and the Indians just called them numbers. A young Indian raja-king was having a birthday and nine of his friends were coming from far and wide to help him celebrate. Each brought with him what he thought was a perfect gift for the raja-king. As the friends ran into each other on their way to the party and compared their gifts for the raja-king, each discarded his gift when he felt it was inferior in comparison. The monkey abandoned his bread, the cow her lotus flowers, the cobra his spools of silk ribbon. They finally settled on the nine gold coins brought by the peacock. However, the coins spilled out and rolled into a bottomless well and were lost. So they arrived at the party empty-handed. The raja-king soon put them at ease and they all enjoyed a great birthday celebration. The raja-king laughed at the story about their gift adventure but most of all he enjoyed their friendship. Beautifully illustrated with paintings that also show how the numerals changed from their initial invention in India to their use by Europeans. 2003, Houghton Mifflin, Ages 4 to 8.
— Kristin Harris
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3-When nine supercilious creatures finally agree on the perfect birthday present to bring to the raja-king, a mis- hap forces them to swallow their pride and shows them that the most valuable gifts are intangible. Inspired by the graceful shapes of Indian numerals, this amusing fable is illustrated with jewel-colored collage artwork. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Selecting the perfect birthday gift can be a daunting task; selecting a gift for the raja-king is a greater challenge for nine animal friends heading to the royal celebration. Rumford’s original fable of friendship, generosity--and counting--romps along as characters join the journey, ultimately giving the best gift of all. The setting for the fable is India, the source of the nine "Arabic" numbers we use today. Rumford’s inspiration for the story was the squiggly shapes of the Indian numbers. Information about the medium, the process of making the pictures, and the careful choice and detail applied in the selection of the Japanese and Indian handmade papers is included. Children will delight in this tale and its vibrant collage illustrations, decorated and refined with brush, pen, and pencil. Curving text swoops down and around, framing the characters and moving or punctuating the text and figures. The attention and devotion each character expresses in selecting the gift are echoed in Rumford’s own careful choices in the creation of this thoughtful work. (Picture book. 5-10)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780618309153
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 5/19/2003
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 5 - 10 Years
  • Lexile: 730L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 11.00 (w) x 7.75 (h) x 0.13 (d)

Meet the Author

Master storyteller James Rumford combines his love for art and history in his picture books. Each of his books is vastly different in its content, design, and illustrations but one aspect remains constant throughout his work: his passion about his subjects. Rumford, a resident of Hawaii, has studied more than a dozen languages and worked in the Peace Corps, where he traveled to Africa, Asia, and Afghanistan. He draws from these experiences and the history of his subject when he is working on a book. His book Sequoyah: The Cherokee Man Who Gave His People Writing was a 2005 Sibert Honor winner.

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