Prather’s Pick: ‘Math Attack’ comes with surprise ending |

Prather’s Pick: ‘Math Attack’ comes with surprise ending

Diane Prather
Math Attack by Joan Horton

School will be starting soon, and for some kids, that means remembering their times tables.

Hopefully, it won’t result in brain circuit overloads as it did for the girl in this week’s picture book.

“Math Attack,” written all in rhyme, is wonderful fun. The book was written by Joan Horton, with pictures by Kyrsten Brooker.

On Monday, Miss Glass asks somebody to tell her what seven times 10 is, but she looks right at a girl dressed in yellow. (The nameless girl is the leading character in the book.)

Now, the girl has been feeling confident about her times tables, but she thinks so hard about the answer to seven times 10 that her brain becomes overloaded, and an explosion of numbers comes out.

Actually, it’s quite like a tornado. Numbers fly out of her head and all over the room. Kids hide under their desks. One girl leaves the room.

Miss Glass covers up her head. The whole thing is highly disruptive.

Miss Glass sends her to the nurse.

The nurse checks the girl’s throat and ears. She decides it’s arithmetic strain. The girl tries to explain what happened, but when she says “seven times 10,” the numbers fly out of her head as before.

(An observant reader will discover a number “6” next to six pills that have fallen out of a bottle, and a number “2” next to two tongue depressors in the nurse’s pocket. And there’s more.)

This time, the number explosion pushes through the front door of the school, knocking down two students. The principal shouts through a megaphone. “We’re under attack!”

Sergeant O’Toole dispatches Officer Green and his partner, Kuralt, to the scene. They take notes. They question the girl, but as soon as she says “seven times 10,” it starts all over again. Numbers fly over the policemen’s heads.

They float over houses.

Dogs bark.

Cars honk.

Traffic gets tied up.

Now the numbers actually interfere by pushing in among other numbers. They mix up the numbers when a man is on the pay phone, and he reaches a sled dog in Nome. There are more numbers in the clock tower, and the clock bongs every which way.

The numbers even float into a grocery store, changing the prices on items. A sticker on bread reads “10 trillion dollars.” Customers have ridiculous grocery bills. And that’s just the beginning.

Will things ever return to normal?

The artwork in the book is unusual because some of it appears to have been cut from actual photos. For example, some of the clothing appears to be of real print. Fruit and vegetables at the grocery store seem to be from photos, too, and some watches and clocks.

All of this is incorporated into the illustrations.

The author, Joan Horton, also has written other books for children, including “Hippopotamus Stew” and “Halloween Hoots and Howls.” Kyrsten Brooker, who lives in Canada, has illustrated many books, including “The Prince Won’t Go to Bed.”

“Math Attack” is published by Melanie Kroupa Books, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux (2009). The book costs $16.95 in hardcover.

What a great book to read to kids at the start of school. It has a surprise ending, too.

Copyright Diane Prather, 2009

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