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The Numberlys

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  986 ratings  ·  192 reviews
From the team who brought you The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore comes an alphabet tale extraordinaire!

Once upon a time there was no alphabet, only numbers

Life was fine. Orderly. Dull as gray paint. Very numberly. But our five jaunty heroes weren't willing to accept that this was all there could be. They knew there had to be more.

So they broke ou/>Once
Hardcover, 56 pages
Published May 27th 2014 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
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Average rating 3.93  · 
Rating details
 ·  986 ratings  ·  192 reviews

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William Joyce has a vision that is so grand in scope. This book is singular. It’s an easy beginner book and it’s really playing with the basic building blocks. There is a society that is very mechanic and industrial. It’s pretty dull and repetitious and full of only numbers and gruel. A group of 5 friends decide there should be something new. The come up with the ABCs.

Something I haven’t seen is that he has a long book that he pants the book on the side so you have to read the story
Alice, as in Wonderland
Look, I think this is a pretty book with great illustrations and the story it tells is pretty decent, but I can't help but be upset by the whole thing. This entire book is about how the fact that numbers are BORING and we need LETTERS AND WORDS to bring magic into our lives and I just think that's totally unnecessary. We already have those books, we read those books all the time. There need to be more books about the enjoyment and the excitement of numbers because mathematics is not promoted or ...more
May 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: children-s-books
I love William Joyce's retro style of art illustration. His pictures tell such great stories, he is one of the few authors that can convey a story that way. The book goes from black and white to color and it is fun. The book starts out with only numbers in the world and the world is gray, lifeless and dull. When The Numberlys decide that things should change, they set out to do something about it. So, they create Letters. Boom, the world comes colorfully to life.
This is a fun book showing
Mar 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture-books
In a world where there are only numbers, everything is very orderly and neat. But it’s also very gray, even the food. Then five friends started to wonder if there was something more than numbers, something different! So they started inventing and they slowly came up with letters. And when they reached the final letter Z, things started to change. Color entered their dreary lives as the letters fell into place. Once the letters formed words, real changes started and the entire world was flooded w ...more
I thought this was spectacularly boring. There's very little story to it, to be honest, and no character(s) to connect to or root for. The characters, such as they are, are merely there. The illustrations are cute but not enough so to really make a difference, enjoyment wise. And compared to The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, it was a major letdown.
Jul 22, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: picture-books
NOTE: Possible spoilers, but c'mon, it's a picture book.

Maybe I'm in a foul mood today or something, but I was soooo disappointed! This book looked adorable and the illustrations are really great, but the story fell flat. "They did something. They were tired, but happy. The end." WHAT?!?
Oct 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I adored this book. The words and illustrations work together to show what happens when a group of people - who live in a world where there are only numbers and no alphabet - decide to make a change. It's a simple story, but beautifully captured the heart of why words are so wonderful, and what they can do to change the world around us.
Dec 20, 2015 rated it liked it
The art is 5 stars, but the story is 1 star! As an English major, who loves art of all sorts, I see the (beautiful, many) shades of grey in a world without colors or language....but come on! A written language is wonderful, but the message here that numbers are not amazing and varied and INFINITELY beautiful is one gazillion percent erroneous.
Kaethe Douglas
Jul 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Joyce is pretty much an automatic love for me. This one has a clear plastic dustjacket with the black and white numbers on it and a special surprise underneath. Gorgeous. The story concept is good, but really, this is just awesome art. I do not at all mind that he has a study full of newcomers learning from him. Not when the quality is this high.

Library copy
Jun 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: children-s-books
A very uniquely laid out storybook with a fun story telling how the alphabet came about.
Michele Knott
Jun 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
Fantastic illustrations. The beginning got my attention "Once upon a time there was no alphabet. Only numbers." Which made me say nooooooo. Good for teaching kids to think differently.
Kay Smith
Dec 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Math might rule, but words tell feelings. Beautifully illustrated children's book!
Joann Ash
Dec 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
My student brought this book to me and said, "You have to read this!"
Danica Midlil
May 30, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: picture-books
Oh! So that's how letters came about!
Fantastic! Loved the illustrations, loved the story. It almost felt a little dystopian with the sepia tones and generic masses of moon men marching around with their numbers. Unique, brilliant, fun.
Viviane Elbee
Gorgeous illustrations in this book about numbers in a numbers-only world, who go looking for something different and invent the alphabet. The kids enjoyed this book, especially the illustrations, which are very elaborate. It's good to show the alphabet. However, if you want to get kids excited about math, this isn't the right book.
Apr 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
You can argue until the sun burns out about whether math is boring or not, and whether or not this is the message of the book. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions. As much as I love science and math (my degree from my pre-library life is biology/geology), I do think that you need words as well to really describe sometime - numbers can only take you so far in that realm of things. I liked how the numbers had created the giant structures and impressive systems of the Numberly world - it was ...more
Florence Turnour
Oct 22, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: picture-book
Numbers and mathematics are at the heart of what our children will need to succeed in the times to come, and math ideas are beautiful and plentiful and ever growing and evolving. The dull dreary world that the authors say is so awful that it is "numberly" does not reflect the beauty that is central to mathematics.

Unfortunately many Americans, parents of children and teachers, believe that math is dull and too hard to be worth the time. This book exacerbating a problem so great, teachers must co
e.  ellor
The illustrations are really what sells this book. My son and I could look at them for hours. The writing style is ok, but there is a problem with the premise. My son especially loves the book because he is obsessed with building and gears and creating worlds like the ones shown in the illustrations, and he is in Math Club because that is where they build and design things, but the book is saying that numbers are just gray gloop compared to words which are jellybeans. It led to a few awkward que ...more
Jackie Sisley
The Numberlys is about a group of children who use invention and writing to make their boring, strict, identical world more diverse. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book! The illustrations were fun and engaging. William Joyce uses a lot of symbolism with color both on the cover and throughout the pages. Perhaps one of my favorite details is that the inside cover in the front and in the back are different and actually work as part of the story, which most books do not do. This book deals with m ...more
Magaly Almario
Nov 14, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: in-class-books
Cute book about how the alphabet came to be. This book features a dust jacket making it very unique. It also switches the page layout from landscape to vertical allowing for practice of proper book positioning to follow the written portion. As the story develops the illustrations appear in color connecting the alphabet to a more happy place to be in. There are no words in some pages which encourages imagination because children have to put a meaning to what's going on in the story this is an ind ...more
Audrey Chapman
Oct 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: children
Imagine a place with only numbers. No colors, no books or pizza and jellybeans. Could there be room for something more? Five friends believe there is and strike out to answer the question. They start crunching the numbers and a wonderful thing happens.

This is a quick, happy book. Great for kids just learning numbers and the alphabet. The illustrations are clean and classic. The only drawback is it ends too soon.
Jul 24, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: childrens
I didn't care for this book. The illustrations, while stylish, weren't always clear in accordance with the story. It's always nice to have an original story concept to introduce the alphabet or other basic knowledge to children, but I don't think the story was put together very well. And as others have mentioned it did give a poor image to numbers, which eventually turns into math, something that is already dreaded and hated without the aid of books like this at an early age.
Aug 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I love books that you have to turn to get the right view. This one is a VERY tall book and is about an imaginary place where there are only numbers. There are a number of wordless pages too, which always makes for an interesting read aloud discussion.

Everything is perfect and orderly. They invent letters and then words and what a world it is!
Nov 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Once upon a time there were only numbers in the world, and it was orderly. A world void of color, jellybeans, alphabet and no names. Five friends thought there must be more, and so they decided to find out and make it happen. After trial and error, the five friends brought forth something new for all to see, and enjoy.
Oct 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
My son has a deep, abiding love for both mathematics and reading. The Numberlys was an instant hit! He loves picking apart the detailed illustrations, such as the fact that the main characters' hairstyles divide their hair into as many "parts" as their number. Numbers are incredible, useful, and beautiful... but there are some things they just can't express in the same way as language.
Oct 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is about a group of people called the Numberlys. They live in a world of numbers, and numbers only. There is no color, no emotion, no feeling. But five friends have an idea and they start creating something amazing.

The illustrations are mesmerizing. The use of colors perfectly matches the story.
May 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture-books
Love the illustrations. Felt like I was watching a Pixar film! It isn't common that the book is read vertically but this was done to frame the scenes with more emphasis on height than panoramic view.
Jun 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture
I really liked the illustrations in this book Very artfully done! The story line was ok but still good. My kids really like it because it was the "Numberlys" making letters. They thought in the next book they could meet the Letterlys.
Scottsdale Public Library
A 'different worldly' gem of the genesis of the alphabet. -- Monty K.
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William Joyce does a lot of stuff—films, apps, Olympic curling—but children’s books are his true bailiwick (The Numberlys, The Man in the Moon, Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King, Toothiana, and the #1 New York Times bestselling The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, which is also an Academy Award–winning short film, to name a few). He lives with his family in Shre ...more
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