The Numberlys

Book review by
Tracy Moore, Common Sense Media
The Numberlys Book Poster Image
Imaginative tale of inventing alphabet fosters creativity.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The Numberlys promotes engagement with numbers and letters, but in a way that's meant to entertain more than educate.

Positive Messages

Positive messages about the rewards of creativity and process, and the joy and wonderment associated with discovery in art-making. It also promotes a positive view of changing things up, even when it goes against the grain of the orderly status quo.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Characters are simplistic, but depicted as hardworking, creative, and group-oriented.

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that William Joyce's The Numberlys is an imaginative chronicle of a group of friends who create the alphabet in a land once ruled by stuffy numbers. It's a great book for highlighting the process of making art, the getting-your-hands-dirty aspect of creation, and the thrill of discovering new things through work and creative spark. The book is based on the engaging, award-winning Numberlys app

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What's the story?

Once upon a time there were only numbers, and numbers were getting pretty boring. So a group of five friends decided to shake things up and mix them around. When they got to work, at first it was pretty messy. But then, something started to take shape, and the shape looked a lot like A, B, and C.

Is it any good?

THE NUMBERLYS is a delightful take on the creation of the alphabet by friends who get tired of the status quo and decide to rejigger it. As a book dedicated to the memory of German filmmaker Fritz Lang, the book's black-and-white and color multimedia illustrations, with their sharp, lean lines and futuristic, industrial style, give a clear nod to his masterpiece Metropolis, the art deco movement, and German expressionism. But all that high art aside, it's a fun, imaginative book that will get kids thinking about where letters come from and how creativity works, with an appreciation for taking risks in art. 

Art-leaning kids will get a kick out the idea of making numbers out of nothing, and parents can appreciate the book's finer art heritage as well as the simple message that resonates with any budding learner of the alphabet.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about making new things. Have you ever decided to make something new? What was it? How did you come up with it? What's your "process" for thinking up new ideas?

  • Have you played the Numberlys app? How do you think the book compares? 


  • Making things can get messy. What's the biggest art mess you've ever made? Was it fun to get messy in the process of making something fun?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love picture books and funny stories

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