cover image One Grain of Rice: A Mathematical Folktale

One Grain of Rice: A Mathematical Folktale

Demi. Scholastic Press, $21.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-590-93998-0

A traditional tale of India, as well as miniatures produced in that country in the 16th and 17th centuries, inspired this visually striking book. Set off by simple red and gold frames, Demi's (Buddha; Buddha Stories, see p. 108) atmospheric, authentic-looking illustrations-some featuring shiny gold backdrops-dominate these graceful pages. Figures sometimes dart beyond the frames, too, adding a Western mobility and quickening the visual appeal. Revolving around a raja who hoards his people's supply of rice during a famine, the tale teaches a lesson about selfishness as well as a basic multiplication theorem. When Rani returns some grains of rice that spilled from one of the raja's baskets, the ruler gives the girl the reward she requests: one grain of rice on that day, and for 29 subsequent days, double the amount of rice as the day before. Underscoring just how astute the child's negotiation is, Demi includes a double-page foldout depicting the take on the 30th day: 256 elephants carry 536,870,912 grains of rice, bringing Rani's total yield to more than one billion grains-enough to feed the entire kingdom. Unfortunately, readers follow a rather monotonous path to reach this effective conclusion, as the author recites a litany of how many bags and how many grains of rice are delivered on various-though thankfully not all-days in the time period. In the end, it isn't the plot that impresses, but rather the elegance and serenity of the accomplished art. Ages 5-8. (Apr.)