Nonfiction Monday: How Many Jelly Beans? by Andrea Menotti
How Many Jelly Beans? A Giant Book of Giant Numbers
By Andrea Menotti
Illustrated by Yancey Labat
You gotta like books with guts. Books that are willing to throw caution to the wind in terms of format or content in order to successfully carry out their mission. Huge in trim size and featuring the grandest of finales, How Many Jelly Beans? is a shining exemplar of this “anything for the good of the story” mentality. Will it hold up well in the heavy checkout environs of a school or public library? No. Will it make jaws drop during storytime or when you give it to your niece for her birthday? Absolutely.
So, how many jelly beans would you like? This is the question posed to Emma and Aiden by the mostly off-screen adult. The kids start modest – ten, twenty. However, when it becomes clear that the sky’s the limit, the numbers start to climb fast. What is the natural end to this jelly bean one-upsmanship? One million. And in the climactic gate-fold finish, the reader is witness to every single bean.
In terms of number sense, this book is about as engaging as they come. It isn’t a simple argument over jelly beans – along the way there are subtle lessons in division (jelly beans per day) and estimation. But the thing most kids will come away with is a concrete concept of what large numbers actually represent. Add this book in with A Million Dots by Andrew Clements and How Much is a Million by David M. Schwartz for a formidable number sense trio.
The back and forth between Emma and Aiden will ring true with kids. The addition of spotted dog Murphy provides added comic relief.
The artwork is immediately eye catching. The characters are rendered in black and white, allowing the rainbow colors of the jelly beans to pop off the page. Dialog appears in word bubbles, lending a subtle comics appearance that readers will enjoy.
So while I can’t vouch for the number of circs the final gate-fold will endure, I can tell you that this is one highly entertaining nonfiction book that deserves to be shared far and wide. Here’s to books with guts.
Review copy from the publisher.
About Travis Jonker
Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.
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