Review by RJ McDaniel
Candlewick Press/Penguin Random House, September 2021
32 pages, Hardcover, $23.99 CAD, 9781536201147
Ages 3-7, Preschool-Grade 2
A brilliant addition to the counting-book genre, We Are One: How the World Adds Up provides young readers with concrete examples of how numbers shape our lives while giving them the framework to pursue their curiosity about these numbers beyond the pages of the book.
With rhyming couplets describing numbers one through ten on each spread, author Susan Hood’s precise, lighthearted text provides a fanciful array of examples to illustrate numbers we might encounter in our everyday existence. Each couplet also efficiently illustrates fractions and sets — numbered parts forming a single whole — by linking each successive number back to the number one. The number one, readers learn, can be “one thing/all on its own: one star, one stream, one stick, one stone.” But one can also be more than the sum of its parts: one sandwich, the next spread explains, is made up of two slices of bread, while two friends sharing vows forms one marriage. Later, readers watch seven colors unfurling across the page to form one rainbow, and count the nine innings that form a single baseball game. By the time readers reach ten, a set is applied to the weighty concept of time: ten years form a decade, while ten decades form a century.
Illustrator Linda Yan uses soft textures, bold shapes, and bright, busy compositions to convey the bounty of numbers with an accessible sense of joy and simplicity. Despite the complexity of the mathematical concepts introduced in the book, it is a pure pleasure for readers of any age to read and look at. And for readers who might have questions that this book doesn’t answer, the bottom of each page has a yellow section with smaller text that provides an in-depth fun fact about what readers see in front of them. At the back of the book is a bibliography with further reading and lists of other possible sets of each number (like the seven days of the week, or the nine U.S. Supreme Court justices), providing advanced or simply curious readers with a fantastic starting point for research.
At the end of the book, Hood and Yan leave readers with a heartwarming reminder: that they, too, are one special part of a whole that encompasses the entire world. It is rare to find a book for children that can encompass such broad, advanced subject matter with such ease and warmth. We Are One, with its poetry and beauty, accomplishes just that.
RJ is an MFA student at UBC and an editor at Young Adulting. They have worked as a writer and editor since 2017, and they are currently at work on their debut novel. A recovering sports journalist, they still watch more baseball than any well-adjusted person should. Other passions include bird-spotting, cat-bothering, knitting, and Succession.