Throwback Thursday: Numbears

Numbears: A Counting Book

By Kathleen Hague, Illustrated by Michael Hague

Find it at: Your Library | Amazon | Indiebound

Published: Henry Holt and Co. an imprint of Macmillian (May 1986)

My husband was recently having a conversation with his twin sister about a book that has plagued them since early childhood: Numbears: A Counting Book is a rhyming picture book that teaches children the method of counting 1-12 with Michael Hague’s trademark illustrations. Upon hearing this for the first time, I completely dismissed the notion. How could a few cute, cuddly bears affect them that much?

 Each illustration has one hidden number that corresponds with the number referred to in the verse on the opposite page.  The majority of the numbers are obvious, plain as day, like the below illustration for “one” (my incredible photo editing skills point out the hidden “1” with a red arrow).

Easy as pie, right? Wrong. For twenty some years they’ve never, not ever, been able to find the number “5” in the snowy picture below. When this forgotten childhood mystery recently resurfaced, Will interlibrary loaned the book in hopes his adult eyes would put his mind at rest from what was started many years ago. The quest for “5”. He tried. I tried. Nothing. (Nothing!) You can’t even bring this book up to him without him getting immediately angry, full of threats that he’ll “write a letter to the publisher.”

(click image to enlarge)

Here is your challenge if you wish to accept it:

Find “5”.

End the search once and for all.

You’re our only hope…


9 Responses to “Throwback Thursday: Numbears”

  1. Will Dunn says:

    Each page ALSO has the number of items in it as well as the numeral. For example, the page for 4 has the numeral “4” in it, as well as four eggs in a nest. Each page seems to have this, except 5 and 10, where we can only find the countable items, but not the numerals themselves.

  2. Jemima aged 10 says:

    I think I have found the number 5 – On the left side of the picture there are some twigs sticking up next to the bridge. Attached to the central twig is the number 5. What do you think ?! Now I’ll look for the ten!

    • Rebecca says:

      Ooh… I didn’t see that possibility. There has been some debate on my husband’s Facebook page on whether it’s on the far right wooden post too. I think I’ve looked at the picture so much I’m going cross-eyed!

  3. Caitlin says:

    My secret pain. I’ve been looking for the five for over 20 years.

  4. zach says:

    I think the number ten is the upper right flower on bottom left of page. Turn it side ways and you will see it.

  5. Jack says:

    I believe the number 10 is the smoke coming from the chimney. It’s tall and narrow but you can see it better if you tilt the book top away from you.
    I’m not sure about the twig looking like the number 5 but I’ve been looking for it so long that I’ll accept that! My wife, son and I have been over that page so much that it’s starting to fade where we hold the edges.

  6. Jack says:

    With some of them also being roman numerals my wife thinks the two right posts making the “V” is the 5.

  7. Claire says:

    My most favourite childhood book! The number 5 is the two posts on the right of the fence making a roman numerals V :)

  8. Sabrina says:

    I found the five! I too have been struggling with this for almost 30 years! It’s on the left brick pillar. Thanks for this post. It helped me find it. I also could never find the 10 but agree it looks like the smoke from the chimney makes a 10.

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