Lewis, Patrick J. 2002. Arithme-Tickle: an even number of odd riddle-rhymes.
Plot Summary -
This individual poet compilation of poems makes math fun. J. Patrick Lewis includes 19 poems all dealing with numbers. Most of them are rhyming word problems to solve, but a few are just plain fun using numbers. The answers are included in small print and inverted in case the reader gets stumped.
Critical Analysis -
Arithme-Tickle: An Even Number of Odd Riddle-Rhymes is an engaging collection of poems. First of all, solving the riddle is always appealing to a reader. The brain instinctively begins to solve the puzzle as it reads. Not only does it appeal to children, it also engages the adult reader. For example, at first I was stumped by the title. It mentions, "An Even Number..." When looking at the table of contents, there are 19 named poems. That's an odd number, but when looking at the individual poems only 16 are "odd riddle-rhymes." The three remaining ones are not riddles; they are poems using numbers in an interesting way with nothing to solve. While the entire collection is not riddles, they all involve numbers.
Most of the poems use rhythm and rhyme which is in keeping with the riddle tradition. This helps them to be memorable. Some of the poems rhyme more than others. Lewis does not force the rhyme for rhyme sake, but uses it to enhance the poem. Most of the rhythm is written in iambic meter form. This creates a sing-song beat that further appeals to the reader. Other sound devices Lewis uses are alliteration and parallel structure. These are not widely used, but are effective when selected. His language is generally creative and sometimes surprising. In one poem, he uses the invented word "poo-poo-pee-doo" as the name for a poodle. For younger children, this may be a problem because many of them may hear it as "potty talk." I think most of them would probably giggle, but some may be a little surprised.
Overall, the poems are quite hilarious and the illustrations add to the humor. The illustrations are bold and bright in watercolor and prisma color pencils on Bristol board. Each illustration adds to the overall effect of the poem. The faces for the most part are jubilant and only deviate when it is referenced in the poem. For example on page 19 when Farmer Flynn's sheep die, he is shown as crying. On page 20-21 is a poem entitled "How many coconuts" in which the illustration is absolutely necessary to solve the riddle. Also, the poems are written on appropriate types of paper. The poem about a mailman is written on pictures of postcards whereas most of them are on pictures of spiral notebook paper. Two are on stationary which are poems written between friends, and the last one is on a drawn banner with cheerleaders holding it up to celebrate the readers completion of the book. The poems and illustrations are intricately linked. This is a great collection of poems to encourage kids to enjoy math.
Review Excerpts -
Publishers Weekly - "...offers a host of clever math riddles with titles like "Finger Play" (which teaches a nifty trick for multiplying by nine) and "Your Average Cow,"
Booklist - "The humorous tone of the rhyming text and the variety of puzzles will definitely add to the fun for those who are ready for a challenge."
School Library Journal - "A new book by a wordplay master always adds up to fun."
*Cross curricular with math. The children can read and solve a fun riddle poem to reinforce a recently covered math concept.
*Using their favorite poem as a model, the children can create their own rhyming riddle poems and have their classmates try to solve them.
*Other math picture books to use:
· A Pair of Socks: Matching by Stuart J. Murphy and Lois Ehlert (HarperCollins, 1996, ISBN: 0-060-25879-9). This book supports young students in learning about pairs, patterns and differences.
· Leaping Lizards by Stuart J. Murphy and Joann Adinolfi (Harper Collins, 2005, 0-060-00130-5). This books supports counting by fives.
· How Many Birds Flew Away: A Counting Book with a Difference by Paul Giganti, Jr. (Greenwillow, 2005, ISBN: 0-060-00762-1). This book uses counting and subtracting.
· Math Potatoes: Mind-stretching Brain Food by Greg Tang (Scholastic, 2005, ISBN: 0-439-44390-3). This book uses math strategies for young children also uses riddles like Arithme-Tickle.