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Ocean Counting

Ocean Counting - Janet Lawler, Brian Skerry The great story here is that my son Alma is all over this book. He doesn't gravitate to every animal book I bring around, but this one he grabbed right onto with a couple of others and took it up to his room and arranged it in a little display on the floor. He creates a kind of 'desktop' display where he can sit down and have several books and/or toys right in front of him like a little panel. Then he moves back and forth between the books and specific pages in the books to arrange a visual experience for himself. Part of this is very repetitive and probably meets the needs of his autistic thinking, but another part of it seems to be exploratory play.

For this book, he wants someone to read it with him as well, and he especially likes to go from page to page and hear us count. He also is very into the counting infographic at the back (which is very well done), where each of the animals in its quantity sits inside a graphic stripe next to the numeral (i.e., number "3" followed by three pictures of the parrotfish). He wants to point to each line in the infographic and have me read the numeral for him and say the name of the animal. He's both curious about animals, and curious about the interaction around this kind of book--very fun!

This is a good genre-busting book. Usually this would be called a 'concept book' because it focuses on numbers and counting (or with other books it would be the alphabet, a specific feeling, a category of objects). But the National Geographic style provides Lawler with an excuse for both an informational visual experience and a text that goes into basic descriptive characteristics of the animal. She also adds a 'did you know' text box with one additional fact. So it's right there on the border with informational text, using some of the conventions we expect from more involved books.

Lawler was able to collaborate with a specific photographer instead of the stock photos we might expect--she thanks National Geographic for this on her home page. I doubt the photos were shot for this book specifically, but rather that Brian Skerry used a library of his existing work to match up with Lawler's idea for the project. Lawler most likely had to collaborate with him in advance so she would know what the photos were of, and could write the right text. It will be interesting to see if I can find out!