Author: Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Illustrator: Jen Corace
Audience: Ages4 yrs and up
Summary: Arithmetic is the tool for reducing important life experiences to their elementary parts. For example: “chalk + sitting=school.”or “wishes + frosting=birthday.” “anything + sprinkles is better.” Occasionally, addition doesn’t work. “mumbling + toe staring” does not equal polite. ( The picture helps here.) Chores require division to equal a family. Subtraction is necessary to remove a few things and love requires multiplication. Preschoolers may not recognize all of these mathematical functions and the ideas in this book are not as simple as they look. Still with whimsical illustrations and surprising combinations, Rosenthal and Corace touch on relationships and activities that are a daily part of a child’s life.. Some combinations are physical: musical instruments, colors, and hot soup; some are actions: somersaults, practice, or jumping. And some are feelings like love. They all add up to a book to be enjoyed and shared.
Literary elements at work in the story: Using mathematics rather than grammar allows the author to focus on the essence of these experiences in an almost poetry-like fashion. It’s a wonderful device for stimulating the reader to think, to recognize and analyze. The pictures are essential..
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? The children who inhabit these pages are Caucasian. The pictures are not realistic but there’s still an impression of uniformity.
Theological Conversation Partners: The unexamined life, says Socrates, is not worth living. This Plus That is a beginner’s guide for examining life. What makes a family, a friend, a season, real life? Thinking in small, discrete terms is a good way to get young children to talk about anything. The Christian faith is full of words that children can begin to think about in this way: neighbor, friend, church, disciple. This book is more valuable for it’s approach to examining life than for any actual content although insights into friends, family, and love are rich in suggestions.
Faith Talk Questions and Activities.
- What do the following word equations equal: learner+follower=, friendly+helping=, packing health kits+singing hymns=, listening+giving+praying+singing=, etc.
- Let children make word equations for such words as celebration, joy, vacation, Easter (or the nearest holiday), Bible. The same activity works with Bible characters.
- The book uses several words to describe friendship (one plus one, laughter, keeping secrets, sharing). What words would you use to describe friends?
- Jesus called us friends when we obey him. (Jn. 14;14, 15:14. What words would you use to describe Jesus as a friend?
- The next to last page in This Plus That describes a child’s love for her family. What things in the picture help to describe her love? 1st John 4:19 says that we love because God loved us first. What words could you use to describe God’s love?
Review prepared by regular contributor Virginia Thomas