How Many Fish? by Caron Lee Cohen

I found this book shelved with the counting books, and I suppose you could call it that, if you don’t mind the fact that the only numbers mentioned are one, two, and six. Just don’t stop there, because there is a lot more to this small book than first appears.

Looking at the cover, you’ll see the “My First I Can Read Book” logo. This is a good thing. We have liked a lot of the I Can Read Books; for limited-vocabulary books they’ve usually got a pretty good story line. How Many Fish?, being in the “My First” line, is targeted at the earliest readers and has the simplest vocabulary. I think I counted only 28 unique words in the whole book. The rhymes are nicely made, and the illustrations are quite lovely.

It’s only on actually reading the book that it’s true value becomes clear. The story is simple – six little fish in the bay get scared away by three children wading, except one little fish gets trapped by a dropped toy for a moment and then freed to happily rejoin his friends. However, How Many Fish? poses a lot of questions to the reader as to what the fish and the children are doing, and why. This is a wonderful book to encourage kids to think about what it happening on the page, and speculate on what might happen next. It’s an important set of reading skills, and easily missed in a child’s hurry to finish a story.

How Many Fish? is a book to read several times (I found my kids were more willing to consider “why” and “maybe” on repeated readings) and linger over. There’s lots of fodder for extending the story into discussions, which is nice to find in an early reader. I think this book will appeal to a wide age range – my not-quite-two-year-old likes the pictures, my toddler enjoyed the counting and the “suspense”, and my preschooler liked that she could read it herself and then make up her own explanations.

Available on Amazon

How Many Fish? by Caron Lee Cohen, illustrated by S.D. Schindler. HarperCollins Publishers, 1998.

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