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The Picture Book Buzz

Everybody Counts - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

This wonderful concept book introduces kids to counting in multiple languages from Portuguese to Mandarin, Greek to Navajo as animals from twelve countries share their food and culture during a festival; reminding us that everyone matters and kindness counts.

Everybody Counts

Author: Matt Forrest Esenwine

Illustrator: Emma Graham

Publisher: The Little Fig

Ages: 4-7



Counting, food, diversity, animals, and kindness.


"Everyone is helpful, in large and small amounts.

Everybody matters. Everybody counts!"

So begins Everybody Counts!, a creative foreign language counting picture book. Get a taste of diversity as you explore this far-reaching festival of food and count your way to a full plate of fun.

Opening Lines:

Mandarin Chinese (China)

Jing and Jian’s mom is here, baking

with her sons. They’re busy counting

homemade baozi – Chinese steamed,

stuffed buns!

What I LOVED about this book:

I was impressed with what initially appears to be a concept book featuring international number systems and food. But it is so much more. Matt Forrest Esenwine successfully weaves into the main text, not only the name of the spoken language, but within a rhyming couplet he features both a child's name and a special dish common to each of twelve countries. Then along the bottom of each spread, he counts to ten in each language.

Text © Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2023. Image © Emma Graham, 2023.

Emma Graham's beautiful, soft illustrations expand upon this by representing each "child" as an animal common to that country. In addition to the special dish and it's ingredients, she also includes the country's (or countries) flag(s) and often a textural banner. And in some cases, such as the above spread for India (the Taj Mahal) and the one for Japan (Mt. Fuji and a sprig of cherry blossoms), she weaves icons, landscapes, or culturally significant items of the countries into her gorgeous illustrations.

Text © Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2023. Image © Emma Graham, 2023.

... Vitumbua look like

little round pancakes. They are made with rice, sugar, and

coconut flour and cooked in a special pan until

light brown.

And as if that isn't enough, each spread also includes a secondary text, like the previous portion quoted above, for children and adults interested in learning some interesting information about the language ("Hindi language is spoken all over the world"), the featured dishes ("references to souvlaki [go] back to 1700 B.C."), or other interesting facts ("Shundeen’s name means “sunlight" ").

Text © Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2023. Image © Emma Graham, 2023.

I really like how the title page introduces the setting of an international food fest at a school or community center as the reason for the animals to be sharing their special dishes. And if they haven't guessed the double entendre that Matt Forrest Esenwine used with the title, the end papers encourage readers to "Share food, language, and culture. Every act of kindness counts." Everyone matters and it is important - and fun - to acknowledge this and share with each other. This is a wonderful introduction to numbers, food, and animals from around the world. And a subtle reminder that we are more alike than different.


- practice counting to ten in one of the languages new to you.

- make a number ("cootie") catcher using numbers from two languages not your own on the first two layers and a fun message inside.

- help with, or attend, an international food gathering at your school or community center. Or explore some dishes from other countries yourself ( Create a food world map by putting a dot, sticker, or pin on a map for every dish you've tried from another country.

- pair this book with All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold, illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman and A Small Kindness by Stacy McAnulty, illustrated by Wendy Leach.

If you missed the interview with Matt Forrest Esenwine on Monday, find it (here).

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions and resources see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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