Ten in a Hurry by Lo Cole


Ten in a Hurry by Lo Cole. Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2021, 9781728215952.

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Picture book

What did you like about the book? Ten fish in rainbow hues are consumed by a transparent grey fish, which latter grows larger as the pages grow wider; these pages are cut in the style of much of Lois Ehlert’s work (e.g. Waiting for wings, Planting a rainbow), a format which feels novel even today. In a trick straight out of Molly Bang’s How pictures work, the color of the grey fish’s eye is modulated to correspond to the color of the prey fish just eaten. All of the fish are remarkably expressive, and Cole adjusts the placement of their pupils (which are the matte black of the page) to great effect, providing numerous and dynamic sight lines in every spread. Other conceptual complexity includes: correlation between the size of the prey fish and their number in line (number ten, Pink, is the largest fish; number one, Red, the smallest); correspondence between text color and a) color terms, and b) the repeated word “GULP” (the words “Pink” and “GULP” will appear in pink on the spread where Pink is swallowed), and, between the text color of cardinal numbers and of the fish in the corresponding ordinal position (the number “9” appears in purple on the same spread, and the fish Purple is in the ninth position in line).

Anything you didn’t like about it? With its almost compulsory twist on the then-there-were-none riff, Cole’s work isn’t remarkable for its plot; Leo Lionni’s Swimmy more memorably conveys strength in numbers, and Robert Kalan and Donald Crews’s Blue Sea is at once more plausible and more clever. The text itself is occasionally but not consistently alliterative, with occasional slant rhymes, and a metrical scheme that’s ultimately doggerel. And as far as teaching the rainbow? Cole rounds out the spectrum colors with Turquoise, Gold, and (an admittedly very red) Brown, and swaps out Indigo and Violet for Purple and Pink: RBrGoOYGrTBlPuPi won’t be winning any mnemonic contests. 

Still, somehow, none of this does much to detract from the overall quality of this fundamentally effective picture book. With durable and turnable pages, arresting colors, lively little fish faces, and compulsively actable gulps and burps, Ten in a Hurry will earn a place on most picture book shelves.

To whom would you recommend this book? Educators and caregivers of toddlers preschool-, and kindergarten-age children

Who should buy this book? Elementary school and public library collections, day care and early-childhood education centers

Where would you shelve it? Picture books; concept books

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Zeb Wimsatt, Mansfield Public Library, Mansfield, MA

Date of review: September 20, 2021

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