I had never heard of Kathryn Otoshi until the librarian recommended her books to me. At first glance, her books look as though they are merely about numbers, but they are really about so much more than that.
I managed to borrow Zero, One, and Two, and loved all three books. I read them with Noah, fully expecting him to be disinterested, as I thought the issues raised were beyond him. He didn’t seem very keen when I read him Two, sat through a few readings of Zero and tried to imitate it, but he absolutely loved One. He would read it on his own repeatedly, and talked to me about it randomly, so I figured that it was his favourite book of the three.
One was Kathryn Otoshi’s first book, and is deceptively simple. It might appear to be a book about colours and numbers, but it actually deals with a very real issue: bullying. This is something very close to my heart, as a mother and former teacher, because I’ve witnessed so many cases of bullying before, and I definitely don’t want Noah to be a victim of bullying. I loved how simply Otoshi used the colours to demonstrate how bullying occurs, and more importantly, how to stand up to bullies. The text and illustrations used are clear and simple enough for preschoolers to understand.
Noah thoroughly enjoyed the book, and would chant, “Red is hot. Blue is not!” whenever Red appeared. He also loves shouting “NO!” at Red, with the other colours, when Red tries to intimidate Blue. I really love how One deals with bullying, and have already ordered a copy of it for Noah, as I think it is definitely a book worth having.
Sympathising with Blue
Reading One by himself
Zero tackles bigger issues than bullying, such as finding value in oneself and in others, accepting differences in body types, and developing social skills. These are huge issues that young readers will probably not be able to grasp, but I believe that there’s no harm in exposing them to the issues, and using this book as a platform to initiate discussions on these complex issues. Of course, you can also use this book to teach them how to count, if they are still too young to understand the deeper meaning of the book.
Noah enjoyed counting with me as I read the book, and also tried stretching the way Zero did. Although he doesn’t know the value of numbers bigger than erm, one hundred, he liked seeing how the numbers got so much bigger, when Zero was added behind them, at the end of the book.
Stretching like Zero
Two is a beautiful book about friendship, highlighting the importance of letting go, being true to oneself, and celebrating one’s own unique traits. I think many school-going children will be able to identify with what Two goes through, when her best friend, One, decides to be good friends with Three instead. They are more sensitive at this age, and will be probably affected when their friends choose to play with other children. Personally, I really loved the word play in this book, like when Eight says, “One and Three are just plain odd. Let’s get even with those Odds!” The book is full of other similar gems, which is also partly why I think that Two is probably better suited for older children, who can understand the text and word play.
These three books are definitely worth purchasing, as they are very easy to read, yet deal with such important issues. Noah has been asking to read them, even after I’ve returned them to the library, and I can’t wait for the copies I ordered to arrive, so that we can read them again.
Buy the Books
Borrow the Books (Singapore National Libraries only)
One / Junior Lending Picture Book / English OTO / Check for availability here Zero / Junior Lending Picture Book / English OTO / Check for availability here Two / Junior Lending Picture Book / English OTO / Check for availability here
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