Written by Erin Cabatingan, Illustrated by Matthew Myers
Roaring Brook Press, 2013
1 Musk Ox
Did You Know? The under layer of musk ox fur, known as qiviut, is used to spin a wool that is eight times warmer than sheep’s wool and finer than cashmere.
This is supposed to be a counting book, but the one musk ox being counted on the first page isn’t there and a zebra steps in to find out what’s going on. It turns out that he was visiting with the two yaks from the second page. The zebra protests that he is ruining the book and tries to send him back to his page, but musk ox pulls some tricks and they continue to argue. The three elephants aren’t very welcoming and he frightens the four birds away. Zebra follows as he continues through the book, pointing out that he is throwing off the numbers everywhere they go. Musk Ox deliberately skips the 7 zebras page to get back at him, more foolishness ensues as they progress through the higher numbers and the book ends with Zebra chasing Musk Ox across the endpapers.
Author Erin Cabatingan first wrote about these two characters in 2012’s A is for Musk Ox, where they established their playfully antagonistic relationship and set the tone for the comic stories to come. I think one of the things that makes this comedic duo work so well is that their interplay is so recognizable. I believe my husband and I take turns playing the musk ox role at home, going off plan and throwing monkey wrenches into the order of things, causing the other one to step into Zebra’s shoes and try to make sense of it all. And mostly, we both laugh a lot, which is another big part of what makes this book so enjoyable. It’s very funny.
The book’s design is set up as a typical counting book, with different colored pages and numbers in large white type across the top of each page. Illustrator Matthew Myers draws Musk Ox as adorably mischievous and lets us know right from the cover (where he’s cut out the ‘O’ in his name to reveal his grinning face on the page below) that he’s up to no good. I love Zebra’s striped necktie, which sets him up as an authority figure and makes him seem more adamant about the rules. This book was followed up by The World According to Musk Ox, in which these two take on the task of exploring the world. It’s on my Must Read list and I hope Ms. Cabatingan keeps these coming, because this one was a ton of fun.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that sometimes meddling with a meddler just makes things worse.