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Can You Top That? Hardcover – October 1, 2000

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Reminiscent of woodcut illustrations, Lee's (I Had a Hippopotamus) multimedia art, which combines gouache, India ink, watercolors and occasionally pastel chalk, is the most distinctive feature of this rather humdrum counting book. A cast of multicultural children, engaged in a variety of outdoor activities, play a game of one-upsmanship as they brag about the creatures they allegedly possess: "A snake with three tonguesAI got a bird with four wings! Can you top that?" asks a soccer-playing girl. And her peers try to do just that, claiming in turn to have a cat with five eyes, a dog with six ears, a pig with seven snouts, etc. Lee's renderings of the more freakish of the creatures may be a bit frightening to preschoolers, though the images of the animals contain some fanciful flourishes (e.g., a fish with one fin sports a bow tie, the dog wears purple sunglasses and the pig has a heart-shaped tattoo dedicated to "Mom"). Even Lee's sly visual punch line is not enough to save Nikola-Lisa's (Bein' with You This Way) repetitious narrative. Ages 3-up. (Sept.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Kindergarten-Grade 2-Opening pages wordlessly introduce a boy deeply involved in his sidewalk chalk drawings. A friend happens by, and offers the following, "Hey, I got a fish with one fin! Can you top that?" Each succeeding spread presents another child repeating the previous dare while adding a similar challenge. For example, "A fish with one fin-I got a mouse with two tails! Can you top that?" The fun ends when the sidewalk artist offers, "Why that ain't nothing. I got an elephant!" which he promises to produce as soon as the other children make good on their brags. Disappointed with his unimaginative dare, his friends scatter and the story ends with the winking child proudly taking a toy elephant out of his backpack. As explained on the copyright page, the innovative deep-color illustrations were produced in a complicated process involving pencil drawings, black India ink, and gouache. The end result is a woodcut effect. The children depicted are particularly appealing, while the imaginary creations are unpleasantly garish. While older children can appreciate the silliness of these creatures, the younger concept-book audience might find "a pig with seven snouts" and "a cat with five eyes" rather odd and perplexing.
Alicia Eames, New York City Public Schools
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Lee & Low Books (October 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1880000997
  • ISBN-13: 978-1880000991
  • Product Dimensions: 11 x 8.8 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,793,862 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

W. Nikola-Lisa's interest in writing books for children began as an elementary school teacher. He is the author of numerous books for primary, upper elementary, and middle school readers, including the following award-winning books: Bein' With You This Way, Shake Dem Halloween Bones, and How We Are Smart. Some of his recent publications include Dragonfly: A Childhood Memoir; Dear Frank: Babe Ruth, the Red Sox, and the Great War, a work of historical fiction set in Boston in 1918; and Hey, Aren't You the Janitor?, a collection of humorous stories about life on the road as a children's book author. An accomplished storyteller and musician, Mr. Nikola-Lisa enjoys sharing his writing and publishing experiences with audiences young and old whenever possible. For more information about Mr. Nikola-Lisa visit his website at

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