Note: I received a copy of this title from the author.
Okay, fellow imaginative parents, I have a question for you: Show of hands, how many of you really love to talk about math with your kids? If we were gathered together, I bet I’d be facing a stoic sea of shoulders broken by one individual in back frantically waving. (There’s always a brilliant one, isn’t there?) I get it. Like most everyone else here, I love language and narrative and instilling an adoration of them in my little ones. Trigonometry, calculus, and balancing my checkbook? Not so much. Like it or not, though, math is an important part of life, and young readers need to learn it sooner rather than later. That’s why I’m glad there are books like Taryn Souders’ Whole-y Cow! Fractions Are Fun. Not only does it teach necessary numerical skills, it does so in a way that story-hungry kids will love.
Fractions are usually a child’s first step toward challenging math, a move from easily identifiable concepts to those slightly more cerebral. Rather than dealing with diced up pies or pairs of numbers split by slashes, Souders offers up narrative verse about a rather silly bovine:
One whole cow was calmly eating hay,
and decided to act differently on this particular day.
One whole cow what should she do?
Moo while her friends paint one half blue!
You can guess how the book will unfold, can’t you? With the help of a friendly brood of chickens, the cow sets off on in search of novelty, going for a dip in a nearby pond while clad in a tri-toned swimsuit, eating a many-flavored ice cream sundae, and munching on a multi-colored daisy as she plays the cello. What makes Whole-y Cow! really work is how it combines its core concept with visual appeal. Easily identifiable divisions splashed with bright colors provide a bridge from the concrete to the abstract.
That visual appeal gets a boost from illustrator Tatjana Mai-Wyss’ watercolors. A Swiss native, Mai-Wyss populates the pages with images that almost look directly plucked from The Sound of Music. Purple mountains. Verdant, rolling hills. A curly horned bovine with a bulbous trychel cowbell around its neck. “Charming” only begins to describe it. From paintbrush-wielding fish to rollerskating-sheep, her art oozes delight, and perhaps that’s part of the reason why Whole-y Cow! succeeds. Education’s easier when married with enjoyment.
(Picture: Copyright 2010 by Tatjana Mai-Wyss; used under Fair Use)