counting board books for art lovers: kahlo's koalas and one white crane

I like gifting board books and picture books whenever I visit the children in my life – it is not-so-secretly my ambition to be remembered as that aunt, the one who always gave interesting books! (and maybe also in some small way sparked a love of reading) I’ve noticed that at most baby showers and birthdays, folks give the same board books they cherished as children. And that’s lovely – who wouldn’t want to share the books they hold dear! I am a little paranoid, however, that I will copy the same book that someone else just gave, so I am ALWAYS, always on the lookout for standout board books to add to my gifting repertoire. Grace Helmer’s Kahlo's Koalas and Vickie Lee and Joey Chou’s upcoming One White Crane are two that I wholeheartedly recommend for art-appreciating parents and their little ones.

kahlo's koalas by grace helmer book coverFrom Henri Matisse’s monkeys and Jackson Pollock's poodles to Roy Lichtenstein's llamas and Wassily Kandinsky’s kangaroos, this beautiful 1-10 counting book provides an imaginative learning experience that will appeal to adults and children alike.

Introduce your little one to some of the world’s best artists while teaching them their numbers 1 to 10. With illustrator Grace Helmer's quirky renderings of animals in the style of world-famous artists, Kahlo’s Koalas extends the basic counting concept in a simple, one number, one image per spread format that introduces the smallest children to their first concept of numbers, animals and art appreciation.


On each page of Kahlo’s Koalas, a different animal and number are featured in the style of a different artist. For example, the book starts with 1 Picasso panda, 2 Kahlo Koalas, and goes from there. The alliterative animal choices make for a fun tongue twister with the artists’ last names, and there are playful artistic choices as well (the Monet mouse in an inner tube among the water lilies was a fun touch!). The artists featured within hail from a wide range of styles and eras, but there are none who are pre-Modern – it’s all Impressionists and onward. One final page at the back of the book talks about each artist’s style and “how” they made their art. Helmer focuses on creating illustrations that mimic the artists’ styles, and leaves the text simple – an effective choice among complex images.


In all, Kahlo’s Koalas is a beautiful, interesting board book introduction to art and counting that is sure to appeal to both toddlers and their parents.

one white crane by vickie lee, illustrated by joey chou book cover
One white crane, two black bears . . .

Simply told and beautifully rendered, this counting board book takes young readers through the months of the year. Each month focuses on a new animal, from seals in May to cicadas in September. Sweet, accessible text in English and Chinese pairs with eye-catching art for a wonderful repeat reading experience.

One White Crane is a bilingual (English and Mandarin) counting book that also teaches the months of the year, and colors as well! Given the twelve months, the count goes up to 12, and there are 12 different animals. The gorgeous Charlie Harper-esque geometric art is featured on each left facing page, and text in English and Mandarin on the right. It is a simple, effective, and quite frankly, beautifully designed book – even if you don’t speak Mandarin and don’t intend to learn! I enjoy gifting bilingual books to children even when their parents don’t speak both languages because any language exposure is good exposure, but this could be a fun way for parents and children to learn side-by-side, or for bilingual parents and families to share their language culture together with their children.


In all, One White Crane is a delightfully simple board book with beautiful art and a lot of learning potential.


One White Crane will be available from Henry Holt & Co./Godwin Books on December 13, 2022.

Fine print: I received a finished copy of Kahlo's Koalas and an ARC of One White Crane from the publishers for review consideration. I did not receive any compensation for this post.

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