Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes
Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes
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Mem Fox, illus. by Helen Oxenbury
ISBN 9780547366203
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008.
5 stars
Keywords: babies diversity games mem-fox ten-little-fingers-and-ten-little-toes

Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes
by Mem Fox, illus. by Helen Oxenbury

This title by two forces of nature in the children’s book field celebrates babies around the world and the families who love them. The refrain about the babies’ ten little fingers and ten little toes, encourages an abundance of kisses, tickles, and hugs.

 “There was one little baby who was born far away,” the book begins. Against a sherbet-colored landscape of rolling hills, a child stands next to her seated friend and waves to a flock of birds soaring over a small town on the other side of a lemon-colored lake. What a giant world we inhabit, the illustration suggests. “And another who was born on the very next day,” the text continues as a nurse holds a sleeping infant; the entire image rests on the tiny child she presents, the center of the unseen parents’ universe. Next comes the book’s refrain: “And both of these babies,/ as everyone knows” (a redhead and an Asian toddler look across the illustration at each other) “had ten little fingers/ and ten little toes.”  Ten life-size wiggling fingers appear on the left-hand page, and ten life-size squirmy toes on the right. Other babies enter the narrative, two by two, against urban and rural landscapes, and also featuring up close portraits of babies’ faces. In one double-page image, the ten little fingers and toes are on display as two children ride on swings, one coming toward viewers (on the right of the spread) while the other swings away (on the left). The joy on their faces seems to say, “We’re alive! Ain’t life grand?,” their boundless enthusiasm infectious. The coda spotlights a new mother (“But the next baby born was truly divine, a sweet little child who was mine, all mine”), yet the subtle twist on the refrain at the close keeps this book solidly focused on the child. A must for every nursery.

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