Book: Counting with Wayne Thiebaud
Art by: Wayne Thiebaud
Text by: Susan Goldman Rubin
Publisher: Chronicle Books
This genius book uses a selection of Wayne Thiebaud's delicious paintings spanning his career to help teach numbers. Art, math, rhyming text, and lots of luscious food? What more could you or your baby need from a book?
I am just a little bit too pleased that this is Henry's favorite book! In addition to being entertaining, educational, and scrumptious all at once, there is some history to why I like this book so much. Here it is:
Wayne Thiebaud is one of my all-time favorite painters. When I was in high school, I discovered his painting "Toy Mickey" in a book of painters reinterpreting Mickey Mouse--it was my favorite painting in the book. When I was an Art major in college, I realized that Thiebaud actually taught classes at my school. I would often wander around on the painting floor of the art building with no real reason other than to see if he happened to be there. (Alas, I never saw him in my wanderings.) I don't think I was ever so excited to register for a class as when the stars finally aligned and I could be in an Art History class he was teaching!
He was delightful. He wore a bow tie every day, for one thing, which was completely charming. Mr. Thiebaud is currently 88 years old, and still painting; when I took the class, he was in his early 80s. He was so enthusiastic about art. I loved getting to hear him talk about his favorite paintings, and why he liked them, and also about his early career as a painter. It was truly a privelege, and no matter how modest he was, I never got over how lucky I was to get to take a class from Wayne Thiebaud!
I also have rarely been as nervous as when, near the end of the quarter, I finally went to his office and found him there. I wanted to ask him about "Toy Mickey." (Is Mickey a toy? Or is Mickey really Mickey?) His reply: "Look at the shadows." He explained he'd always been very interested in shadows and what they reveal. (The "Toy Mickey" shadow does show a toy outline, so my take: The painting is a toy, seen from the perspective of a kid, or someone who believes the toy is real.)
Anyway, that's a really long way of saying, when Brad got me (I mean Henry) this book for Christmas, it was the perfect gift.
Baby Henry's current favorite spread: The hot dogs ("Seven Hot Dogs," 2006)
Henry slaps at the hot dogs on the page!
My favorite spread: "Pie Slice" (1991)
The texture of the painting comes across very well, especially for a baby board book. Plus, Henry often dives right into this page and smushes his mouth against the pie, which cracks me up. (Of course, I want to do the same--but how does an 8-month-old who's never had pie even know that that would be fun?)
Spread that could inspire OCD: The last one, "Gum Machine" (1964). The text prompts the reader to count all the gumballs. If you did this, though, maybe you'd get really good at estimating and win one of those "how many M&Ms are in this jar?" contests.
Deep thoughts: The concept is brilliant, and you get fun language, a little math, and lots of lovely pictures. I love the clean font and the soft, creamy yellow and light blue-green-gray page backgrounds. They perfectly set off the paintings and drawings, the real stars of the book.
It's an artsy book, but it's not pretentious; it's beautiful, but accessible to anyone; and I love it more the more I see it. Just like Thiebaud's paintings. Looking at the paintings from Henry's perspective is also great fun--and of course, I'm still studying the shadows.