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The Boy Who Loved Math: the Improbable Life of Paul Erdos by Deborah Heiligman

imagesI always think it’s a shame that more adults don’t read children’s’ books.  I remember fondly the years where children’s literature filled both my working life as a children’s librarian and my home life as a parent.   It was a great pleasure, then, for me to stumble on a list of best children’s books of the year and browse and choose.  Here’s a great title that I would recommend to adults and children:  The Boy who Loved Math:  The Improbable Life of Paul Erdös.  Do you have a math-a-holic at home?  Or a math phobe?  Or a differently gifted child?  This picture book biography, written by Deborah Heiligman with illustrations by LeUyen Pham demonstrates how an unusual personality can make contributions in a field and indeed become world renown.  Heiligman shows the young Erdös fascinated by prime numbers and coming into his own in high school with like minded peers.  In 1934, Erdos left home for the first time at age 21 and was able to avoid the perils of Nazi Germany.  The book also tells the story of the world wide math community that supported the itinerant Erdös as a temporary but unusual house guest and valued colleague.  Pham incorporates the world of math into the art in the book.  Mathematical theorems are worked into many of the illustrations and Pham includes a world-wide gallery of mathematicians organized by their degrees of separation (or research collaboration) from Erdös.  The author and illustrator notes in the back of the book are extensive and lend themselves nicely to being used by adult explorers or at the high school level in math, art or history classes. Heiligman is also the author of Charles and Emma:  The Darwins’ Leap of Faith.  Pham has also illustrated God’s Dream by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.  She is still working on her Erdos/Bacon number!

Amy P.

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