The Boy Who Dreamed of Infinity

by Amy Alznauer (Author) Daniel Miyares (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

A young mathematical genius from India searches for the secrets hidden inside numbers -- and for someone who understands him -- in this gorgeous picture-book biography.

A mango . . . is just one thing. But if I chop it in two, then chop the half in two, and keep on chopping, I get more and more bits, on and on, endlessly, to an infinity I could never ever reach.

In 1887 in India, a boy named Ramanujan is born with a passion for numbers. He sees numbers in the squares of light pricking his thatched roof and in the beasts dancing on the temple tower. He writes mathematics with his finger in the sand, across the pages of his notebooks, and with chalk on the temple floor. "What is small?" he wonders. "What is big?" Head in the clouds, Ramanujan struggles in school -- but his mother knows that her son and his ideas have a purpose. As he grows up, Ramanujan reinvents much of modern mathematics, but where in the world could he find someone to understand what he has conceived?

Author Amy Alznauer gently introduces young readers to math concepts while Daniel Miyares's illustrations bring the wonder of Ramanujan's world to life in the inspiring real-life story of a boy who changed mathematics and science forever. Back matter includes a bibliography and an author's note recounting more of Ramanujan's life and accomplishments, as well as the author's father's remarkable discovery of Ramanujan's Lost Notebook.


School Library Journal

Gr 4-6--This admiring picture book biography of Indian-born mathematical genius Srinivasa Ramanujan (1887-1920) opens with his early childhood. He liked to ponder complex questions about numbers, which his teachers were unequipped to answer. As he grew older, Ramanujan worked feverishly to find solutions, each leading to more questions and answers. His ideas evolved over time, and he developed unique formulas to solve them. In his early 20s, at the urging of colleagues and friends, Ramanujan wrote to mathematicians at Cambridge University about his theories. One last letter earned an invitation, and he sailed to Britain in 1914. He died at age 32, but his mathematical contributions live on. This engaging volume portrays the development of a brilliant, inquisitive mind and includes text inspired by the subject's own words. Students will learn terms in Tamil (definitions provided through context). While some concepts may confound the mathematically challenged, Ramanujan's resilience should motivate students to hold onto their passions. Oddly, his birth and death dates aren't given and are absent in the informative author's note. The lively, delicate ink drawings capture the sights, colors, and culture of India and, on some pages, depict numbers playfully cavorting, just as they tumbled in Ramanujan's brain. VERDICT Best for talented math students and others who enjoy exploring favorite subjects independently. Recommended for schools and large public collections; useful where STEM biographies are needed.--Carol Goldman, formerly at Queens Library, NY

Copyright 2020 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review

In his small Indian village, the child Ramanujan asks: "What is small?... What is big?" He contemplates this problem in creative ways: "A mango is like an egg. It is just one thing. But if I chop it in two, then chop the half in two, and keep on chopping, I get more and more bits... to an infinity I could never ever reach. Yet when I put them back together, I still have just one mango." Alznauer deftly uses Ramanujan's ponderings to illustrate complex mathematical concepts, including prime numbers, partitions, and infinite sums. Despite his brilliance (or perhaps because of it), Ramanujan struggles: " 'I am like the first man in the world with no one to hear me speak, ' he thought." Eventually, his genius is recognized--and his work still sparks wonder among mathematicians today. Lush watercolors by Miyares capture the lyrical details of Ramanujan's world. Ages 5-9. (Apr.)

Copyright 2020 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

The perceptive text offers anecdotes that enable readers to see many sides of Ramanujan, portraying him as a genius who, driven to pursue his passion, produced work of lasting value. Miyares uses colored inks skillfully, creating vivid, imaginative scenes that help viewers envision Ramanujan's story and its setting. An illuminating picture-book biography of a fascinating, singular figure in the history of mathematics.
—Booklist (starred review)

Alznauer is a mathematician herself, and her loving tribute evokes Ramanujan's early years with rich and authentic detail, which Miyares' luminous compositions bring vividly to the page...A fascinating story beautifully told.
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

The lively, delicate ink drawings capture the sights, colors, and culture of India and, on some pages, depict numbers playfully cavorting, just as they tumbled in Ramanujan's brain. Best for talented math students and others who enjoy exploring favorite subjects independently. Recommended for schools and large public collections; useful where STEM biographies are needed.
—School Library Journal

Amy Alznauer
Amy Alznauer is an author of poetry, essays, and nonfiction for children. Her adult memoir Love & Salt won a Christopher Award. She is also on the mathematics faculty at Northwestern University, where she teaches calculus and number theory. She lives in Chicago.

Daniel Miyares is the author and illustrator of several books for young readers, including Night Out, Bring Me a Rock!, and Float. He is the illustrator of Little Fox in the Snow by Jonathan London. He lives in Lenexa, Kansas.

Classification
Non-fiction
ISBN-13
9780763690489
Lexile Measure
N/A
Guided Reading Level
N/A
Publication date
April 20, 2020
Series
-

Subscribe to our delicious e-newsletter!