Monday, May 14, 2012

Review - How Many Jelly Beans?

How much is a thousand?  One hundred thousand?  A million?  Such big numbers can seem abstract to kids (and adults for that matter), because they never face them in their real life.  How Many Jelly Beans? by Andrea Menotti attempts to fix this gap in knowledge by showing the depth of numbers with the best of counting tools: jelly beans.
“How many jelly beans would you like, Emma?” asks the faceless parent.  “Ten!” is the response.  Brother Aiden asks for twenty.  This begins an escalation from ten to five hundred, each time with a handy visual illustration of just how many that is.  From here, the pair go one to think how many jelly beans they could eat in a year, from five thousand to ten thousand.  This culinary cavalcade of numbers concludes with one million jelly beans, a number so big it requires a fold out section.
This is a big book.  A really big book.  Kids should have an idea of what they’re getting into just from the size alone.  Kids who are very visual learners will get a kick out of this graphic representation of numbers.  I especially enjoyed spreads that had one thousand jelly beans separated out to two or three a day and one hundred thousand separated by color (Aiden is a big fan of grape, not so of lemon.)  Obviously, illustration is the key to this book and illustrator Yancey Labat has this one in the bag with his sharp digital drawings, which reminded me a little bit of LeUyen Pham, and of course, the colorful jelly beans.  I worry about this book, just a little bit, because of the enormous fold out in the end.  I don’t know what the shelf life of this book is going to be, but I couldn’t resist it.  I think kids are going to be just as drawn to the tasty treat of jelly beans, and the outright coolness of these numbers.
 Note: While reading this, I couldn’t help thinking of A Black Hole is Not a Hole, and its list of enormous numbers representing space.  To paraphrase Douglas Adams, “A million jelly beans?  That’s just peanuts to space.”
 How Many Jelly Beans? by Andrea Menotti, ill. by Yancey Labat
2012, Chronicle Books
Library copy