Kathryn Otoshi, Publishers Group West, 2014

When Two’s best friend One starts spending time with Three, Two feels left out, but when Four, Six, and Eight try to help, they only create a new divide between the odds and evens, until Zero steps in and sets things straight. This is another great story that helps build values with themes like friendship, loss, letting go, and self-discovery.

I recently made the mistake of using this book with children that were a little too young. Whereas Otoshi’s One and Zero hold the attention of preschoolers to Grade 1/2, this title uses bigger concepts that need explaining to young ones: odds and evens, greater than, less than, “playing the odds”. In my opinion, the read-aloud aspect loses some umph in this title…not as fun and a bit more difficult to hold the attention. Despite this, the point Otoshi makes through the ‘zero’ character is that we can find a different way to make it fun to dance with everyone. This makes the work the storyteller must do through the exposition worth it.  The book is ideal for slightly older elementary – grade 3 and up?

Even if this story needs some adult explanation with young children, it’s an excellent launching pad for a discussion on the ebb and flow of friendship. All of us, even the youngest among us, have awareness of what it’s like to be included or not. We also can acknowledge that whether in friend groups or with siblings, three is a difficult number. Relationships with one other is simpler, adding a third to the mix makes those relationships more complex with sharing, with competition, with anxiety over our place and security. Finding creative ways to include and diffuse the tension of “us” versus “them” is a lifelong skill that ought to start when we’re very young. It doesn’t get any easier in the online world, in the balancing of friendships from different circles in our lives, and the bullying that can happen when differences are accentuated rather than embraced as unique opportunities for growth and learning.

Kathryn Otoshi is brilliant in the way she weaves these character development conversations into her books. Grab any and all her books: One and Zero are must-haves too!


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