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USHA AND THE BIG DIGGER by Amitha Jagannath Knight


From the Storytelling Math series

by Amitha Jagannath Knight ; illustrated by Sandhya Prabhat

Pub Date: Aug. 3rd, 2021
ISBN: 978-1-62354-202-3
Publisher: Charlesbridge

Usha loves two things: trucks and cartwheels (although she’s still not quite sure how to do a cartwheel).

When her big sister, Aarti, points out the Big Dipper while stargazing, Usha doesn’t see a scoop at all; instead, she sees a truck. Usha confidently tells her sister that the constellation (or, more accurately, as Knight notes in the backmatter, the asterism) she’s seeing isn’t a big dipper—it’s a big digger. Things get even more complicated when the girls’ cousin Gloria comes over the next night. Gloria doesn’t see the constellation as a scoop or a truck; she sees it as a kite! Through all of this, Usha practices her cartwheels. Each of the girls is convinced that the others are seeing the stars in the wrong way, until Usha flops on the ground after a failed cartwheel and realizes that the constellation is, in fact, a scoop, a truck, and a kite, depending on its orientation. This latest edition to the Storytelling Math series features stunning illustrations of dark-skinned South Asian protagonists, with Gloria apparently biracial (Black/South Asian). The book bursts with charming images of endearing kids, and the story’s presentation of the girls’ varying, equally valid perspectives is a valuable tool for promoting empathy. However, its success at demonstrating the principle of orientation via a constellation is imperfect; any of the concrete examples in the backmatter would have worked better.

Read for the illustrations and the characters (but not the math).

(Picture book. 3-6)