10 picture books about counting

Published on: 20 May 2024

At BookTrust, we know that reading picture books helps children to develop their maths skills, as well as communication, oracy and emotional wellbeing. We asked One Goose, Two Moose author Kael Tudor to recommend some fantastic counting books.

A photo of Kael Tudor and the front cover of One Goose, Two Moose

Counting and picture books work well together. Really well, in fact, which must be why there are so many of them. Learning to count is a valuable skill for even the youngest of humans, so what better way to have fun with it than through a story?

Unbelievably, when I wrote One Goose, Two Moose, illustrated by Nicola Slater, I didn't realise that it was a counting book at all. It was only when my publisher described it as one that the penny dropped.

I was simply trying to write a funny story about gooses and mooses lining up, and my brain decided for me that the best way to do that was through counting. I think that speaks volumes for how important counting books are to me and my subconscious. Or maybe it means I need to pay more attention to what I'm writing!

Either way, here are 10 of my personal favourite numeracy-themed picture books.

Ten Delicious Teachers by Ross Montgomery and Sarah Warburton

An illustration from the front cover of Ten Delicious Teachers - a group of differently coloured furry monsters surrounding a worried looking teacher

A hilarious and fresh spin on the classic counting-down-from-10 book that follows 10 teachers who have missed the last bus from school and must walk through a dark forest to get home. The 'delicious' in the title comes from the fact that the woods are full of monsters who gobble the teachers up, one by one. Fantastic counting fun, but also brilliant for using my favourite, but not often employed, picture book trope of people getting eaten.

3, 2, 1, Go! by Virginie Morgand

Set at a big animal sports event, this book counts a variety of different things, from one shiny trophy to a 20-minute break. This is gorgeously illustrated in Virginie Morgand's vibrant screen print style, with so many details to find and count on each spread. And I have to give extra bonus points for being a rare counting book that counts up to 20 (and back again).

The Hueys in None the Number by Oliver Jeffers

I'm a huge fan of Oliver Jeffers, and his Hueys series features the titular characters navigating a variety of different situations. In None the Number the Hueys discuss whether none is a number, and end up counting objects up to 10 while trying to answer the question. Brilliant fun.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Written and illustrated by up-and-coming star Eric Carle, this is a little known picture book you've probably never heard of. I'm joking, of course, but despite its massive (and well deserved) popularity, I wouldn't be happy compiling a list of numeracy-themed picture books without including this classic, which follows the hungry caterpillar as it eats its way through an ever-growing number of foods.

Ten Apples Up On Top by Dr Seuss

Despite being originally written under his pseudonym Theo LeSieg, this is a classic Dr Seuss book about a dog, a lion, and a tiger all competing with one another to see who can balance the most apples on their heads, because why not? Super fun to read aloud, and with counting forwards and backwards, it's a great book to share with little ones.

One Was Johnny by Maurice Sendak

This is one of the four books that make up Maurice Sendak's Nutshell Library, named after their tiny size – this is a seriously small book! It follows Johnny, whose peaceful life ('1 was Johnny who lived by himself') is interrupted first by a rat, then a cat, a dog, a monkey, and then even more characters, counting up to ten – when Johnny's house is truly full – and then back to one again after he threatens, gloriously, to eat everyone. A classic.

Counting with Tiny Cat by Viviane Schwarz

An illustration from the front cover of Counting With Tiny Cat - a cat on its back sticking its tongue out as it juggles with red balls

While this is not necessarily the best book to use to teach counting in the most accurate way, it's heaps of fun, and great for using to help children understand concepts of quantity. Essentially, Tiny Cat gets bored of counting beyond the number four and instead opts for statements like 'lots', 'more', and 'too many'. Hilariously chaotic, very cute, and super enjoyable to read together.

You Can't Count on Dinosaurs: An Almost Counting Book by Philip Ardagh and Elissa Elwick

As the title says, the dinosaurs in this book really can't be counted on to help us count accurately, considering how Rex (the T-Rex, of course) keeps eating new characters that pop up, and a spirited debate about whether a pterosaur counts as a dinosaur leads to an aeroplane demonstration. Ultimately, though, it's tons of fun, and readers will love (attempting) to count along.

How To Count to One (And don't even THINK about bigger numbers!) by Caspar Salmon and Matt Hunt

Never has a counting book spent so much time on a single number! This is an incredibly clever and fun book that subverts the idea of counting how many objects there are on a page by always challenging the reader to find one specific thing (finding the sausage among the whales is a personal favourite). Despite being a simple premise, Caspar Salmon's text keeps it very fun, and Matt Hunt's hilarious illustrations manage to take a funny idea and ramp the humour up to way beyond one.

One Fox: A Counting Book Thriller by Kate Read

This is the story of a hungry fox and a coop of scared chickens, told masterfully (and with a level of tension not often seen in picture books) through minimal text that counts from one to 10. Never fear, though; a brilliant twist involving the number 100 means that everyone gets to the end of the book unscathed, and we're safe to count another day.

One Goose, Two Moose by Kael Tudor and Nicola Slater is out now.

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