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Poems to SolveJuan Bobo and the PigThe Ancestor TreePaco and the WitchThose Calculating CrowsBilly and EmmaElizabeti's DollWho's In the HallMama ElizabetiA Safe Place Called HomeElizabeti's SchoolIt Rainded All Day That NightYou're Not My Real MotherAfrican American Read-AloudSky DancerscookbookGuess AgainphphDreaming_Up_Cvr
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Those Calculating Crows

Those Calculating Crows!
by Ali Wakefield, illustrated by Christy Hale
(Simon & Schuster, 1996)
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When a farmer tries to keep hungry crows from his corn fields, it appears that the birds can count to seven.
awards • reviews
Bank Street College 1997 Children's Books of the Year
Scholastic paperback edition

Hale's (Juan Bobo and the Pig) witty gouaches are all but wasted on this faltering tale, allegedly based on an experiment proving that crows can count up to seven. This premise, explained only in a prefatory note, serves as a shaky foundation for a story about a farmer trying to outwit a flock of impertinent crows that are consuming his newly sprouted corn. The farmer, Roy, plans to chase the crows out of his fields and hide in a shed until they return, at which point he'll fire his gun into the air and scare away the brazen birds for good. Alas, the shrewd crew stays away until Roy returns home. He brings in more people, one by one, to wait with him in the shed, but the calculating crows realize each time that one more person has entered than left the shed... until the number reaches eight. Repetitious and often confusing, the text revolves around a grating cumulative rhyme ("Crows are not dumb, they count to ONE. It must be true, a few count to TWO..."). Hale gamely supplies comic crow's-eye perspectives on the baffled humans as well as a handful of visual riffs depicting the birds learning math in a classroom and applying their number skills to playing poker and pool and trading on a crow-crowded stock exchange floor. Imaginative as these vignettes are, however, they add another distraction to an already circuitous story. Whatever subtraction lesson may be intended here ends up in the negative column. (Ages 5–8)
Publishers Weekly

(Ages 5–7) As soon as Farmer Roy's sweet corn sprouts, some pesky crows appear, ready to chow down. Roy hides in the toolshed, hoping to eliminate a few, but the birds outsmart him by waiting until he leaves. Next, Roy and his wife, Dot, both walk to the shed, assuming the crows will return as soon as Dot leaves. Again the clever creatures outwit Roy, forcing him to enlist the help of friends and neighbors in determining how high the birds can count. Wakefield's droll text, based on a real experiment (which proved that crows can count as high as seven), will amuse young listeners, especially those just learning about subtraction. Hale's brightly colored gouache illustrations show the crows participating in sophisticated tasks—playing poker, shooting billiards, trading futures, and piloting a spaceship. Story hour listeners will enjoy responding with the cumulative counting rhyme, and teachers will find this a clever addition to math and science lessons. —Kay Weisman
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farmer sowingcount to twocount to sixcrow on fence