It is difficult — possibly impossible — to remember a recent counting book that has clambered up out of the slough of “useful” into the rarefied strata of “stunning” and “memorable.” Hats off to Anthony Browne for creating “One Gorilla.” Set against stark white backgrounds, the inhabitants of each page function exactly as objects in a counting book are required to do: 1 gorilla gives way to 2 orangutans, 3 chimpanzees and so on up to 10 lemurs. Stripped of their natural habitats and artfully grouped, they are extraordinarily easy to count. The numerals that appear on each left-hand page are big, bold and colorful, standard components that reinforce the book’s utilitarian status. The super-saturated color palette is vivid enough to attract even the most jaded young eyes dulled by Saturday morning cartoons. But it is the faces peering back at the observer that change everything: wise, cunning, playful, exuberant, crafty, sweet and sly. They are us, we are them. Just as Katherine Applegate’s Newbery Award-winning “The One and Only Ivan” allowed a gentle silverback to speak directly to older readers, this picture book invites the very youngest to gaze into the luminous eyes of their primate cousins and see a spirit as intense, as intricate and as important as their own.

Kristi Elle Jemtegaard


A Counting Book

By Anthony Browne

“One Gorilla: A Counting Book” by Anthony Browne (Candlewick)

Candlewick. $16.99. Ages 3-7