Elisa Kleven’s The Lion and the Little Red Bird is about a bird who wonders why a lion’s tail is different colors on different days (red, orange, blue, etc.). She asks him, but he doesn’t understand bird. They form a friendship despite the language barrier. A rainstorm ruins the bird’s nest and causes the lion to bring her inside his cave, where the reason for his ever-changing tail is revealed. When the bird finally finds out that he’s been painting with his tail she sings a beautiful song that the lion loves. It’s about inter-special friendship, the power of art and music to transcend cultural differences, and colors. One hardly notices the colors with everything else that is going on and I love that. My daughter also loves lions, so she’s happy. The rare books that trick one into learning are great — not because my daughter needs to be tricked, but because I enjoy reading books which don’t make me think “now I am reading about counting, now I am reading about coloring, she is learning about coloring now, she is learning about counting now” but instead have some sort of narrative.
There is a great Pimpa book (Pimpa va a casa di Nino) which, although not as subtle, manages to count from one to nine with a convincing (though slightly bizarre) narrative. The main trick is, I think, that completely different things are counted. So instead of say, just choosing a totally random example, one monkeys, two monkeys, three monkeys, etc. it is about a dog who gets in a canoe to visit her penguin friend Nino. [I used to have some stuff here about rainbows, but it proved too controversial and I revealed my lack of scientific rainbow knowledge.] I bet you are more interested in what happens at the end of this book than in the ten little monkeys jumping on the bed one, right? Armando gets a treat from the North Pole.