Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes

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There are many wonderful counting books for children, but very few that teach tolerance, emphasize the comfort of sameness, and pull on the heart strings at the same time like author Mem Fox’s adorable board book, Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes.

The focal point of this book—that we are all basically the same—can be felt and heard in this beginning passage:



“There was one little baby who was born far away.
And another who was born on the very next day.
And both of these babies, as everyone knows,
had ten little fingers and ten little toes.”

These simple words and the passages that follow show young readers that though babies may be born in different countries and cultures and may look different in dress and color of skin, they still have things in common that make them sweetly human.

This is a sturdy, toddler-sized board book that has something for everybody. Ms. Fox’s text, soft and pure, offers sweet innocence, the joy of lives beginning, and the unique beauty of the mother-child love.

Artist Helen Oxenbury’s exquisite illustrations are the perfect complement to the text, showcasing round-cheeked babies of every race that mature from infancy to bouncing toddlerhood right before the reader’s eyes, all while experiencing the wonder of new friendships, the joy of belonging, and the simple appreciation of being loved.

Unfortunately, not every baby is born with ten little fingers and ten little toes. Critiques may complain that this book fails to acknowledge certain physical exceptions, like the absence/abnormality of fingers and toes, and therefore may be offensive to those not born as “whole” as the book emphasizes.

But if parents take a second look, they may find that this simple little board book is also keenly multifaceted, and the concepts of “counting” and “normalcy” are only two of several themes. The sweetly repetitive language delivered with just the right amount of parental love emphasizes a larger concept: similarity by virtue of the simple state of being human.

Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes is the perfect read for quiet time, bedtime, or lap time and can be read for the sheer comfort and security it offers, or as a preschool introduction to social studies, geography, and/or multiculturalism.

Best wishes,
Rita Lorraine

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Hello Everyone! I am a former special education teacher, and am currently a full-time children's writer, book blogger and freelance editor. My newest picture book, The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read (Random House) debuted as the No. 1 Picture Book in Women's Biographies and Children's American History. It has received STARRED REVIEWS from Kirkus, Booklist, Publisher's Weekly and School Library Journal, and received a great review by The Wall Street Journal. My first picture book, Hammering for Freedom: The William Lewis Story (Lee and Low) debuted on September 24, 2018. It is a School Library Journal selection and received positive Kirkus and Horn Book reviews. I penned African Americans of Chattanooga: A History of Unsung Heroes, which earned the 2014 East Tennessee Historical Preservation Award, and I earned the 2014 SCBWI Letter of Merit for an unpublished multicultural novel. I am the author of several educational books for teens, and I occasionally review books for The New York Journal of Books. Thanks for visiting!

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