Monday, March 31, 2014

Ten Sly Piranhas

I love this book!  William Wise has crafted a delightful, gently macabre tale of "wickedness and worse" to help children learn to count backward.

In the grand tradition of "Ten Little Speckled Frogs" and "Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed," Wise uses rhyme and repetition to reinforce counting in reverse.

Ten Sly Piranhas is really quite entertaining, although highly sensitive children might be rattled by the ruthlessness of those nasty old piranhas.  I gave this book to my nephew when he was 3 or 4 and it scared him a bit.

The text includes wonderful vocabulary and figurative language: roguish rascals, rotten to the core, slippery schemer, frolicsome, vanquished, cunning, and more.  What a great start for a writing activity/lesson!

The final page of the book includes a note about piranhas that provides interesting facts about this peculiar variety of fish.

Try giving your child 10 Goldfish crackers and let them eat one each time a piranha eats one of his companions "with a gulp and a gurgle."

The Greedy Triangle

The Greedy Triangle, the story of a triangle who gets bored with his limited function in this world, is one of author Marilyn Burns' most popular works.  The triangle decides he is tired of "holding up roofs, supporting bridges, making music..., catching the wind for sailboats, and being slices of pie and halves of sandwiches."  Each page finds him returning to the shapeshifter, asking to have one more side and one more angle added so that his life will be more interesting.  The shapeshifter happily, then wearily, obliges, until the triangle has so many sides and angles that he is nearly circular and can't maintain his balance.  After an alarming rolling incident, he decides life wasn't so bad as a triangle and returns, for the last time, to the shapeshifter.

The illustrations are colorful and bright, expressive and fun, and just plain cute!  Illustrator Gordon Silveria creatively includes many versions of the polygon de jour on each page and kids will enjoy finding all of the examples of the shape being featured on that page.

Accurate mathematical vocabulary is used throughout the text, which appeals to children's intelligence while the fantastical elements of the story keep things interesting and fun.  The story has the repetitive text so popular with younger readers and my class enjoyed chanting the repetitive portions as I read them aloud.

There's a section at the end of the book especially for parents and teachers, which touches on the mathematics in the book, how children think about shapes, and ways to extend their learning.  

Marilyn Burns is one of today’s most highly respected mathematics educators and children's authors. During the past  40 years, Marilyn has taught children, led inservice sessions, authored mathematics-themed books for children, and written a variety of professional development publications for teachers and administrators.  For a complete list of her work, click here.