Lit Kid: books with counting

Cometh the reader, cometh the reading preferences. Which is fair enough really – and it keeps it fresh for the adult narrator too.

Junior Reader could be relied on to spot rhymes. Sometimes to guess a rhyme before I’d read it. Or to fill in the gaps where I left a space.

Mini Reader is very suspicious of gaps. Where are the words, please? But give an opportunity to count in a book – just as in real life – and all is well.

I’m more a rhymes gal than a numbers person, but that’s OK. I wasn’t much of a diggers and dumpers person either, but I learned fast when Junior Reader required it.

So in honour of books with numbers in them, here’s a few you can count along with.


The Bear with Sticky Paws – Clara Vulliamy

“I don’t like this book!” Mini informs me. “We haven’t read it yet,” I say. “I don’t like it!”

I start reading anyway, and soon Mini discovers the numbers element – and requests an immediate rereading. (Always a good sign.)

First up, I need to tell you that this is a really beautiful book. Some readers with aspirations towards princessly activity will love it simply for the look.

The style of the drawings is lovely, and I can only dream of living in a place as nice. Think French mansion with its own patisserie to provide all the cakes in the book, and you are somewhere close.

There’s some nice rhythms to it too, with the ‘girl named Pearl’ getting cross at breakfast time, and going on to discover a partner in crime when a small white bear arrives at the door.

The bear is very hungry all the time – so Pearl has to keep feeding it. 7 pieces of pizza, 11 carrots, and 15 iced buns. And that’s just for lunch.

Each food item is lovingly drawn so you can count them all out – and of course decide which is your favourite bun / ice cream etc on that particular reading.

I won’t spoil the outcome of the story, but the counting rounds things off nicely at the end too. Do give this one a go.


I did my shout-out for The Very Hungry Caterpillar recently, so it’s just to remind you that there’s some decent counting in there too.

Each day, the caterpillar eats one more item – and by Saturday, there’s significant eating to be done, and counting to go with it.


There are many many books that include counting to 10. Some are more appealing than others – and let’s face it, if you are going for multiple rereads, you really want to have an appealing book for counting and recounting.

Here are a few more at various points of the spectrum:

One to Ten and Back Again – Nick Sharratt and Sue Heap

Many of us know Nick Sharratt’s distinctive drawings. They are all over books as varied as Jacqueline Wilson’s teen chapter books and pre-school books with Julia Donaldson of Gruffalo fame.

I have only come across this pairing more recently, and it’s a pretty good one. As both authors are illustrators, you get a mix of two visual styles on the same page, which adds more variety.

Sharratt’s signature pictures are black outlined, but Heap’s aren’t generally, so the impact is a little softer.

What I like most, though, is that the book doesn’t stop at 10 – it counts up and it counts back down again, as the title suggests.

This makes it a bit longer and adds a bit of positive challenge for your confident counter.


Who’s Hiding in Princess World? – Marks and Spencer books

Counting in books also brings you nicely to ‘spot the…’ books ie those ones where you have to find various items within a busy visual scene.

I mention this particular book because for every double page spread, it offers the chance to count a range of different items e.g. starting from 1 crystal ball to 2 ice sculptures, and so on, up to 10.

The plus point of this is that pretty much everyone can spot the 1 item, the 2 items and so on, so it builds confidence for those who find counting harder  – or equally those who find it harder to spot items if a scene is very detailed.

For the really keen counter, there are usually items to spot where you have to count up to 20. This is harder to keep count on the page, but can bring in maths strategies such as finding ways to group what you’ve counted, or to work your way across the page.


Anno’s Counting Book – Mitsumasa Anno

Anno books were popular in the 1970s, but it took until I was in my 30s to be introduced to them. Anno is a Japanese illustrator who creates exceptionally beautiful books which bear many rereads.

Anno became famous for depicting different countries and historical periods, but he also had his own take on pre-school activities like learning numbers and letters.

The counting book is very clever, because (like many of his books) there are no words, but on each scene, there are multiple pictures that encourage you to count.

On the 1 page, there is one of each item; on the 2 page, 2 of each item and so on, but all arranged much more as elements in a landscape.

The book goes up to 12, so it naturally ties in with visuals for 12 months of the year, showing how counting ties in to other maths notions such as progression of time.

I confess I haven’t yet tried this one with Mini Reader yet, but I have a feeling it ought to go down very well with my counter extraordinaire.


Any counting books you like? Or ones where you groan at a further rendition? There’s always space for more recommendations.

On that note, I feel I should add another item to my ‘books with holes‘ list, and remind you of this classic version of The Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly.

It’s a 1970s edition, and I was delighted to snap up my own copy in a charity shop one time. It’s not too hard to find elsewhere online, if you feel like adding to your own collection.

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