Maryam's Magic: The Story of Mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani

by Megan Reid (Author) Aaliya Jaleel (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

From Althea Gibson author Megan Reid and rising star artist Aaliya Jaleel, illustrator of Under My Hijab, comes the first picture book about trailblazing mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani, the first woman to win the world's most prestigious honor in mathematics. Perfect for fans of Hidden Figures and Mae Among the Stars.

As a little girl, Maryam Mirzakhani was spellbound by stories. She loved reading in Tehran's crowded bookstores, and at home she'd spend hours crafting her own tales on giant rolls of paper.

Maryam loved school, especially her classes in reading and writing. But she did not like math. Numbers were nowhere near as interesting as the bold, adventurous characters she found in books. Until Maryam unexpectedly discovered a new genre of storytelling: In geometry, numbers became shapes, each with its own fascinating personality--making every equation a brilliant story waiting to be told.

As an adult, Maryam became a professor, inventing new formulas to solve some of math's most complicated puzzles. And she made history by becoming the first woman--and the first Iranian--to win the Fields Medal, mathematics' highest award.

Maryam's Magic is the true story of a girl whose creativity and love of stories helped her--and the world--to see math in a new and inspiring way.

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School Library Journal

K-Gr 3--This biography of Iranian mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani (1977-2017) will appeal to kids who struggle with math. Mirzakhani will also serve as a role model for young girls who want to compete in a traditionally male-dominated arena. Young Mirzakhani loved storytelling and grew up in a culture with strict gender roles. During the war, girls and women weren't allowed to go to school with boys, if they were permitted to attend at all. Mirzakhani, who became the first woman (and the first Iranian) to win the Fields Medal, was a pioneer in her field. As a young student, she used her natural storying talent to overcome her aversion to math by bridging the gap between words and numbers. Geometry became her entry point into mathematics. The many shapes she encountered reminded her of fictional characters in her favorite books, and she made up endless stories about them. Young readers will want to know how Mirzakhani used art to solve equations; the fact that this is not fully explained in the text is a bit of a drawback. However, the idea of merging art and math is welcome in this picture book. Jaleel's bright, realistic illustrations capture the setting and style of dress in Mirzakhani's homeland. Mirzakhani is drawn with light skin. A later scene at Harvard University depicts students with light skin and different shades of brown skin. VERDICT An inspiring life story and worthwhile addition for any library looking to enhance its collection of STEAM titles or biographies of noteworthy women from the Middle East.--Gloria Koster, formerly at West Sch., New Canaan, CT

Copyright 2020 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

"Jaleel's soft cartoons pair well with Reid's words, reinforcing that Maryam was not just a math genius, but someone who loved books and used stories to solve tough problems....Highlighting an important figure, this book also demonstrates that one can excel in more than one field."—Kirkus Reviews
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Balzer & Bray/Harperteen
Publication date
January 20, 2021
BISAC categories
JNF007090 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Biography & Autobiography | Science & Technology
JNF007120 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Biography & Autobiography | Women
JNF035000 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Mathematics | General
Library of Congress categories
Women mathematicians
Mirzakhani, Maryam

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