by Kathryn Otoshi
Grade K-3


Zero is a big round number. When she looks at herself, she just sees a hole right in her center. Every day she watches the other numbers line up to count: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7… Those numbers have value. That’s why they count, she thinks. But how could a number worth nothing become something?

Zero feels empty inside. She watches One having fun with the other numbers. One has bold strokes and squared corners. Zero is big and round with no corners at all. If I were like One, then I could count too, she thinks. So she pushes and pulls, stretches and straightens, forces and flattens herself, but in the end she realizes that she can only be Zero.

As budding young readers learn about numbers and counting, they are also introduced to accepting different body types, developing social skills and character, and learning what it means to find value in yourself and in others.

Discussion questions from SOMN

  • What does it mean to have value?
  • Why did Zero only see an empty hole inside?
  • How did Seven help Zero find her value?
  • Have you ever felt like you didn’t matter? What made you feel that way?
  • Think of a time when you felt valuable—to friends or to family. How did you feel then?

Classroom activities from SOMN

  • Whole group: Using chart paper or white board, brainstorm a list of words from the book that have more than one meaning (count, value, hole, stretch, open, soar).
  • Prepare paper with a large zero covering most of the page. Ask students to draw a picture of the time they felt really valuable, cut it out and glue it into the center to the zero. Share your picture and story with your classmates.
  • Prepare ahead of time: Cut out large “coins” from construction paper. Write something valuable about each person on their coin, e.g., kind, helpful, understanding, friendly, etc. Give each child their coin. Ask the class to discuss how it feels to know that someone values something about them.