Beginning with Crash! Boom! A Math Tale, Robie H. Harris and illustrator Chris Chatterton have collaborated on picture books that make basic geometry adorably accessible to readers ages 2-5. They continue in Now What? A Math Tale.
A sweet-faced orange, white and black-spotted puppy with dark, floppy beagle ears finds a bag of wooden blocks and sets about building the perfect puppy-sized bed. Alone, the rectangle and square blocks leave Puppy hanging off their sides. But, with a little ingenuity, a few triangle blocks and the comforting presence of a favorite teddy bear, Puppy finds the exact configuration of blocks to approximate a human's bed.
Puppy's expressive pencil-stroke eyebrows and wagging tail catapult this bouncy protagonist to a huggability quotient rarely witnessed in math-oriented texts. Chatterton sets the digitally colored action against plain white, canary yellow and cornflower blue backgrounds, and gives Puppy a shadow that matches those of the photographed and scanned blocks, plush bear and Puppy's blanket, creating a very effective illusion of three dimensions. Puppy's egg-shaped face, whether set in determination or smiling hopefully, telegraphs understandable emotions. In the titular moment, Puppy wails "NOW WHAT?" after running out of rectangular blocks, a moment of frustration young children will certainly recognize. Harris succeeds in describing block shapes ("1. 2. 3. 4 corners. 1. 2. 3. 4 straight lines--all the same size. Hey! This is a square!") and Puppy's trial-and error-process in kid-friendly terms, providing support for young builders who might not see the design flaws right away. Readers should pair this book with real blocks for a tail-waggingly fun building session once Puppy settles in for a well-earned victory nap. --Jaclyn Fulwood, youth services division manager at Main Branch, Dayton Metro Library