Tuesday, October 26, 2010
One Grain of Rice: A Mathematical Folktale by Demi
A folk tale set in India, One Grain of Rice tells the story of a raja who decrees that all under his rule must give him neary all of their rice to store for safekeeping. When a famine hits the region under his control, the people have no rice to give the raja, and ask him for some of the rice he has stored. When he refuses, his people grow hungrier. One day, the raja decides to throw a feast for himself and his court. When an basket on an elephant bringing rice from the storehouse to the palace spills out some rice, a village girl gathers the spilled rice and returns it to the raja. He's so impressed that she returned the rice, rather than taking it for herself, that the raja decides to reward her with anything she wants. She asks for one grain of rice for today, and then each day for thirty days double the amount of rice given the day before. What follows is an illustration of how quickly this tiny amount of rice multiplies.
This is a beautifully illustrated picture book with a mathematical theme. I love how multiplication is visually illustrated with the fold-out pages to show the various animals delivering her rice, where it almost overwhelms you, the reader. It's easy to finally understand that the numbers grow so fast that one's mind can't quite keep up. I give it a 'B.'