Sunday, June 11, 2017

You Can Count On It! 7 Ate 9 byTara Lazar

I was dozing in my chair when an urgent bang on my door bolted me awake. It was 6.

"7 is coming to get me," said 6. As a private
I, I am used to his type--numbers. They are always stuck in a problem. I knew this 7 fella. He was odd.

"What's 7 up to?" I asked.

"My days are numbered!" said 6. "Word on the street is that 7 ate 9, and now he's after me!"

"Technically, he's always after you." I said.

But all puns aside, Al F. Bet, Private I, promises to get down to the root of the case, where he soon runs into a number of complications. 9 indeed seems to be nowhere, cancelled out of the equation, so to speak. Al scours the street for 8, hoping she's got some data for him, but she claims to know nothing, nada, zilch, zero, despite the fact that she and 9 are known to be very close. But the news seems to frighten her.

"Then I'm next in line!" 8 said. In a flash she took off her belt.

Now 8 looked just like 0. Good disguise.

The detective ducks into the local diner for a piece of pi with ice cream on top, hoping to get a scoop. He asks the wisecracking waitress, B, whether she's seen the missing 9.

"Negative!" said B.

The clues just don't add up, and our ace private I figures he's got to find the missing 9 or prove he's been eliminated. But there's something about 6's story that doesn't quite seem to be on the up-and-up, in the just published 7 Ate 9 (Disney Hyperion Press, 2017), in which author Tara Lazar fashions a hoary old number riddle into a smart, stylish picture book while mining the tropes of the 1930s detective story and firing off punny gags like gunfire from a gang of Mafia goombahs.

Sometimes to solve the problem, you just have to invert something, and when Private I Bet spots 6 acting suspiciously he figures that 6 is actually 9, hiding in plain sight upside down, and the case is solved.

While technically a number recognition book, this one takes its wordplay into higher math (see the diner's dessert case with the sign PIECE OF PI, $3.14.) Lazar's numerically-savvy text is added by a #1 sidekick, artist Ross MacDonald, whose pencil, watercolor, and digital retro metro scenes and numerical characters add visual jokes.

A quantity of sight gags add up to a punny, funny tale that's Number One on the giggle-o-meter. Although the publisher recommends this one for preschool and Kindergarten children, the best jokes will likely score with savvy second and third graders who will get the clever numerical puns and gladly groan along to the final solution. Says School Library Journal, "
An A-1 purchase for those who love play on words, mysteries, and humorous tales."

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