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Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page 66.
- Review Date: 2008-09-15
- Reviewer: Staff
Put two titans of kids' books together for the first time, and what do you get (besides the urge to shout, “What took you so long?”)? The answer: an instant classic. Fox's (Time for Bed) text works off the simplest premise: babies around the world, even those who seem like polar opposites, have the same 20 digits in common. But there's real magic at work here. Given their perfect cadences, the rhymes feel as if they always existed in our collective consciousness and were simply waiting to be written down: “There was one little baby who was born far away./ And another who was born on the very next day./ And both of these babies, as everyone knows/ had ten little fingers and ten little toes.” Oxenbury (We're Going on a Bear Hunt) once again makes multiculturalism feel utterly natural and chummy. As her global brood of toddlers grows—she introduces two cast members with every new stanza—readers can savor each addition both as beguiling individualist and giggly, bouncy co-conspirator. Ages 3–5. (Oct.)
From far and near, babies all the same
Everyone wants to "Teach your children well," as the classic song suggests. If you know a new baby or have a favorite toddler, by all means introduce them to Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes, a jewel of a picture book by Australian author Mem Fox. With minimal text, and sweet illustrations by beloved British artist Helen Oxenbury, it's truly an international treat.
The cast features eight beautiful babies from around the world who laugh and frolic with each other on every page. The book's message of acceptance is summed up on the first few pages:
There was one little baby who was born far away.
And another who was born on the very next day.
And both of these babies, as everyone knows,
had ten little fingers and ten little toes.
Fox's rhyming prose makes the perfect bedtime read-aloud, with its soothing yet profound words. Oxenbury's roly-poly childrenpart baby and part toddlerconvey wonderful expressions, ranging from inquisitiveness and watchfulness, to welcome and glee. While hailing from places near and far, they immediately learn to play together. Readers see a child "born on the ice" stand beside a penguin, and on the next page, readers meet a child born in a tent. Soon the two are fast friends, playing a joyful tug-of-war with one boy's scarf.
Oxenbury is a master at drawing appealing round-faced children, and the muted colors she uses reinforces the soft, soothing message of Mem Fox's words. Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes gently presentsbut never preachesa satisfying lesson about humanity and international harmony.
Alice Cary counts fingers and toes at her home in Groton, Massachusetts.