Count the Monkeys by Mac Barnett and Illustrated by Kevin Cornell
Count the Monkeys teases you with a seemingly easy challenge but quickly devolves into a slightly stranger counting book. We turn the first page to find that a dastardly king cobra has scared all our monkeys away. They keep one step ahead of the reader throughout the book, leading us on a wild chase!
Each page offers a collection of different and more numerous non-monkey creatures as the narrator becomes confused and a tad frustrated. Crocodiles, wolves, and even lumberjacks invade what was supposed to be a simple simian counting adventure!
The best aspect of Barnett's book is the interactive instructions, such as when he asks for a vote of whether the plural of mongoose is "mongooses" or "mongeese." He also instructs listeners to scare off grizzly bears by banging pots and pans and shouting "Roar!"
Almost every page gives you something to do, whether it's covering your eyes or giving high fives. All of this makes Count the Monkeys the rare sort of book that seamlessly combines reading and playing into one grand activity.
Kevin Cornell's colorful pictures are delightfully silly. He gives the crocodiles top hats and canes, while the lumberjacks wield more varieties of syrup than your average pancake house.
Barnett has played with his readers before. His picture book Chloe and the Lion is a splendid example of the author stepping outside the story, which is derailed when he and the illustrator cannot agree on what the book's lion should look like.
Count the Monkeys packs energy and numerical nonsense into less than thirty pages, which is good because children will want to read it and play along--again and again!