The Numberlys

Overview

From the team who brought you The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore comes an alphabet tale extraordinaire!

Once upon a time there was no alphabet, only numbers…

Life was…fine. Orderly. Dull as gray paint. Very…numberly. But our five jaunty heroes weren’t willing to accept that this was all there could be. They knew there had to be more.

So they broke out hard hats and welders, hammers and glue ...

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Overview

From the team who brought you The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore comes an alphabet tale extraordinaire!

Once upon a time there was no alphabet, only numbers…

Life was…fine. Orderly. Dull as gray paint. Very…numberly. But our five jaunty heroes weren’t willing to accept that this was all there could be. They knew there had to be more.

So they broke out hard hats and welders, hammers and glue guns, and they started knocking some numbers together. Removing a piece here. Adding a piece there. At first, it was awful. But the five kept at it, and soon it was…artful! One letter after another emerged, until there were twenty-six. Twenty-six letters—and they were beautiful. All colorful, shiny, and new. Exactly what our heroes didn’t even know they were missing.

And when the letters entered the world, something truly wondrous began to happen…Pizza! Jelly beans! Color! Books!

Based on the award-winning app, this is William Joyce and Moonbot’s Metropolis-inspired homage to everyone who knows there is more to life than shades of black and gray.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
03/10/2014
In a lush series of b&w spreads meant to be viewed vertically, Joyce (the Guardians series) and newcomer Ellis imagine a factory lit like a Busby Berkeley set or Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, full of massive halls and gigantic machinery. Thousands of workers pour through its doors, and thousands of numbers emerge from it, providing order in the world and making it “numberly.” Alas, there are no “books or colors or jellybeans or pizza” in this regimented world; just 00267, which is “thick and gray and gloopy,” and 00268, which is “thicker and grayer and, well... gloopier.” With can-do spirit, five industrious elfin creatures break some of the factory’s numbers into pieces and invent letters, using the factory’s pulleys to lift them, steel mill–like claws to move them, and extruders to mold them like Play-Doh. The letters magically acquire color as they come off the assembly line, offering—at last—jellybeans and pizza, and even a new way to sleep (“zzzzzzz”). The story appeared first as an iPhone app, but works almost as well as a picture book, thanks to Joyce’s innate instinct for visual storytelling. Ages 3–7. (June)
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
“Once upon a time there was no alphabet. Only numbers.” Things were orderly. “Life was sort of…numberly.” At the beginning, readers must turn this book sideways to read the text at the top and see the pictures of the tall buildings, then the toy robot-like inhabitants at the bottom, all in shades of brownish gray, with numbers everywhere. Five friends get together and decide, on a double page to read across, to try to do something “…MORE.” So back on tall pages they get to work. Eventually, across horizontal double pages, they form the letters of the alphabet atop numbers. Then, at Z, colors emerge. The letters form words, and the day ends to the satisfaction of the five creators. The interesting-looking characters work with inventive machines, designs, and arrangements. The early multimedia illustrations manage to form believable environments in shades of the brownish gray, before the wild colors take over. Check the contrasting front and back end pages. The front has a spread of regimented colorless characters and designs, while in the back we can see characters asleep in the dark blue night with a bright yellow moon shining over them. Over the colorful cover is a transparent jacket covered with black letters and numbers with our five heroes marching across. This is a story to ponder over. An augmented reality app is available. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz; Ages 4 to 8.
Kirkus Reviews
2014-03-31
A successful app makes a transition to print. Joyce and Ellis' Moonbot Studios fable about an evolution in thinking loses something in the translation from tablet to print, despite its 50-plus-page length. A vast, somber art deco metropolis rendered in straight lines and monochromatic grays and browns houses a world of numbers and gears: "[E]verything added up." Five little beings, sporting round eyes and round heads (some with antennae), want "MORE." They design and manufacture a familiar, Western alphabet from the forms of numbers. Upon completion of the Z, the letters, bright with color, form the words of new, appealing ideas ("jellybeans," "yellow," "pizza"), even names. Numbers disappear altogether; the world transforms to full color. Young readers—and significant adults—frequently look for books to extend screen-based story experiences. The opportunity to look more closely at the Numberlys' world is definitely an attraction. But the visual richness isn't matched by the insubstantial plot, and suggesting that numbers aren't beautiful or that the sole source of color and fun is our alphabet seems trite and misguided. Much of the book requires turning pages vertically as if opening a calendar, matching the tall cityscape but making shared reading awkward. Neither the picture-book medium nor the Numberlys app is as well-served as each deserves. (Picture book. 4-7)
School Library Journal
04/01/2014
K-Gr 3—In this large, mostly vertical picture book, the numberlys are tiny folks living in a black-and-white futuristic metropolis. Its buildings appear especially tall as the pages here often rotate the layout—readers must move the book a quarter turn so that the left-hand side tops a view spilling down the double page. The spare text and many wordless pages tell of a time when there were only numbers and no alphabet: "Everyone liked numbers. They had nice shapes and kept things in order. And everything added up…So life was sort of…numberly." Long, tidy rows of the little inhabitants, whose head antennae gives them an extraterrestrial appearance, include five friends who are unhappy with the sameness. This is a world where "there weren't any books or colors or jellybeans or pizza." But the friends want MORE, and in wordless spreads, they get to work, marching down long stairs among giant cogs and gears. As they struggle with the machinery lines, ad shapes tumble out. "At first it was awful. Then…artful…" As the falling bits shape into letters of the alphabet, they also take on color, and soon the world has pizza, jellybeans, and names for people. The varied layouts can be a bit confusing and the tone rather static, but there are comic moments and a provocative premise about the value of letters and words. The jacket flap invites readers "to "see this book come to life through the augmented reality app." Readers/viewers able to manipulate those machines on screen and help those little people crank out letters are likely to enjoy the lesson of recognizing and naming them. The numbers vs. alphabet concept seems sophisticated for young picture book readers, but teachers and librarians might find useful opportunities for discussion or by pairing this with other alphabet books.—Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781442473430
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
  • Publication date: 5/27/2014
  • Pages: 56
  • Sales rank: 10,925
  • Age range: 3 - 7 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.20 (w) x 11.70 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

William Joyce

William Joyce does a lot of stuff—films, apps, Olympic curling—but children’s books are his true bailiwick (The Numberlys, The Man in the Moon, Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King, Toothiana, and the #1 New York Times bestselling The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, which is also an Academy Award–winning short film, to name a few). He lives with his family in Shreveport, Louisiana.

William Joyce does a lot of stuff—films, apps, Olympic curling—but children’s books are his true bailiwick (The Numberlys, The Man in the Moon, Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King, Toothiana, and the #1 New York Times bestselling The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, which is also an Academy Award–winning short film, to name a few). He lives with his family in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Christina Ellis is an illustrator, telling fantastic stories through her characters and their worlds. Christina joined the legion of Moonbots after studying illustration at Ringling College of Art and Design. She lives in Shreveport, Louisiana, and The Numberlys is her picture book debut.

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