Some Cosmic Math Before Breakfast

h1 August 10th, 2021 by jules

“We’re moondust and star shine all circling the sun …”
(Click spread to enlarge)


“How the World Adds Up” is the subtitle of Susan Hood’s newest picture book, We Are One (Candlewick), illustrated by Linda Yan (her picture book debut) and coming to shelves next month. It is precisely because not a lot of our world today does seem to add up (in non-mathematical ways) that I find this book so comforting. It’s a primer on early math concepts, and it’s a reminder that we’re all connected to something larger than ourselves.

The book, spread by spread, counts from one to ten, exploring each number:

“One can be one thing all on its own — one star, one stream, one stick, one stone. But those on their toes, those using their smarts, know one can be more than the sum of its parts.”

A child in sunny yellow clothing and a pointed hat appears on each spread, exploring the world and making friends with the creatures in it. The verso and recto of each spread contains smaller-print text, placed in a honey-colored strip all throughout the book, that includes informational facts about concepts or objects that appear on the pages. This first spread, for instance, notes whom we can credit for the notion that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and it includes a note about collective nouns. (Hood notes that a pile of sticks could add up to one bird’s nest and poses the question: “What could many stories make?”)

The primary (non-small print) prose is laid out in pleasing rhymes (couplets) and playfully explores the world of numbers. All of the concepts that appear, and their corresponding fine-print facts, are (subject-wise) all over the place — one of the most delightful things about this book. We learn about the first recorded sandwich, haiku, a compass, Shakespeare’s plays, ballet positions, Braille, the currency of early American colonists, the nine baseball positions, and much more. The world is a vast and complex and fascinating place, we are reminded.

After ten, things turn cosmic: We read that we are all “part of a family, a team, the world’s beating heart.” Though Yan populates the book with anthropomorphic creatures of all sorts (there’s even an octopus in a tutu), this spread and the final one that follows it feature a group of children, ones who join the child who has heretofore guided us from one to ten. All of them are similarly clothed: They have vivid yellow clothing and pointed hats, each looking like a star. In fact, on this first spread we them in space, floating amidst constellations and shooting stars.

That Hood and Yan go from a detailed look at how our world “adds up” to such a big-picture concept (we’re all made of atoms and are all in this together) is splendid.

Here are some more spreads. …


“One sandwich requires two slices of bread …”
(Click spread to enlarge)


“Once old Spanish dollars were pieces of eight. …”
(Click spread to enlarge)


(Click cover to enlarge)


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WE ARE ONE: HOW THE WORLD ADDS UP. Text copyright © 2021 by Susan Hood. Illustrations copyright © 2021 by Linda Yan and reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

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