Countdown: Swallow the Leader: A Counting Book by Dana Smith
Follow the leader.
Do as I do.
Splash when I'm splashing,
Then I'll follow you.
An adventurous little angelfish captures the flag and urges his friends to join in a game with him. One by one the other young fishes fall in line to follow the flag, as they go forward, swimming by crabs whose waving claws can't catch the swift-swimming minnows. They swim steadily by a whale, pretending to blow, and scoot past a trio of sting rays as their little leader leads five followers on.
Play like I play.
Flap like a ray!
Two new fishies get in the swim as they bypass a blowfish. Now a group of seven, the procession seeks camouflage behind some kelp for protective cover from a snaggle-toothed predator.
Into the dark.
Hide from a shark.
The leader swims on, gaining more players who hurdle a turtle to add swimmers to count to 10, but just then....
Old Snaggle-Puss the Shark suddenly reappears. He wants to play--HIS WAY! And his game is not the same.... It's more like...
SWALLOW THE LEADER...!
The shark cheerfully commences to consume the following fishes, counting down one by one--
10... 9... 8...7...6...5...4...3...2, right down to the last little leader fish, which he pronounces
Is that to be the end of this buoyant little band of brothers? Is this school of fish permanently OUT?
Fortunately for the fish, what goes down must come up in Dana Smith's forthcoming Swallow the Leader (Houghton Mifflin Clarion, 2016). It's up and down and back again, as it seems that the flipping, flopping fishies and their flag is too much for Snagglepuss's tummy, and in a leviathan-level belch, out they pop to survive to swim and be counted again.
It's all in good fun, with a tour of the assorted denizens of the deep and plenty of counting practice along the way. Kevin Sherry's minimalist and stylized illustrations keep the action moving left to right (teaching pre-reading skills) through each page and combine cut-paper collage and watercolor wash in lively background colors which are tasty eye candy for the counting book set. Together text and pictures add up to a clever combo for the early childhood concept book shelf.
For a sea critter-themed set, read this one with Jonathan Fenske's gloriously silly Barnacle Is Bored. (See review here.)