Cover image for Can you top that?
Can you top that?
Nikola-Lisa, W.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Lee & Low Books, 2000.
Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 28 cm
Children drawing animals on the ground at the park compete to see who has the most impressive one, from a fish with one fin to a horse with ten heads.
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PIC.BK. Juvenile Fiction Childrens Area-Picture Books
PIC. BK. Juvenile Fiction Picture Books

On Order



On his way home a young boy stops for a quiet moment to draw animals on the ground at the park. Soon he is joined by his friends and a contest develops to see who can come up with the most outrageous animal. The competition heats up, but then everything stops when the first boy offers a simple and surprising challenge. Eager young readers will clamour to find out what happens in this truly imaginative and somewhat whacky counting book. Illustrated in full colour throughout. Ages 3 and upwards.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Ages 5^-8. A young African-American boy chalks animals on the sidewalk. Another boy approaches, saying, "Hey, I got a fish with one fin! Can you top that?" A girl rides up on her bike and says, "A fish with one fin^-I got a mouse with two tails! Can you top that?" The game continues as each child in the multiracial cast tries to invent an even crazier animal. Finally, the first boy insists he can top them all by showing them a real elephant as soon as they produce their animals. The last page shows the boy winking to the readers, and the joke is revealed^-a stuffed elephant. Lee's bright art adds immensely to the book. He illustrates each animal, in huge colorful portraits done in a faux woodcut style that soars across double-page spreads. His unique way of making art using goach, india ink, and watercolors is explained in detail in the book's front matter. The concept works the best when it's silliest, and for some the ending may fall a little flat. But the parade of crazy animals may spark readers to come up with their own inventive creatures. ^-Kathy Broderick

Publisher's Weekly Review

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 tonguesÄI 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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

K-Gr 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 (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.