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THE BOY WHO DREAMED OF INFINITY

A TALE OF THE GENIUS RAMANUJAN

A fascinating story beautifully told.

Srinivasa Ramanujan was a self-taught genius whose original insights into number theory still inspire mathematicians today.

Ramanujan was born in 1887 into a Tamil family in South India. Before his birth, his grandmother dreamed that the goddess Namagiri “would write the thoughts of God on his tongue.” As a young boy growing up in temple towns, Ramanujan hated traditional classrooms and often ran away from school, but he was captivated by numbers, big and small. Gorgeous watercolor spreads show how “numbers came whispering in dreams” and “would rush across the pages in circles and packs.” He pondered complex ideas such as infinite series, number partitions, and primes; he entered high school at 10 and solved college-level problems at 15, but he couldn’t focus on anything except math. He failed college and lived in poverty and isolation, still pursuing his research with mystical zeal, “trying to learn the thoughts of God.” Eventually, his persistent attempts to find a kindred spirit paid off. Following Namagiri’s promptings, he sailed away to share his work with the best mathematicians in England. 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. All characters are Indian and have brown skin and hair.

A fascinating story beautifully told. (author’s note, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 6-10)

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7636-9048-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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BASKETBALL DREAMS

Blandly inspirational fare made to evoke equally shrink-wrapped responses.

An NBA star pays tribute to the influence of his grandfather.

In the same vein as his Long Shot (2009), illustrated by Frank Morrison, this latest from Paul prioritizes values and character: “My granddad Papa Chilly had dreams that came true,” he writes, “so maybe if I listen and watch him, / mine will too.” So it is that the wide-eyed Black child in the simply drawn illustrations rises early to get to the playground hoops before anyone else, watches his elder working hard and respecting others, hears him cheering along with the rest of the family from the stands during games, and recalls in a prose afterword that his grandfather wasn’t one to lecture but taught by example. Paul mentions in both the text and the backmatter that Papa Chilly was the first African American to own a service station in North Carolina (his presumed dream) but not that he was killed in a robbery, which has the effect of keeping the overall tone positive and the instructional content one-dimensional. Figures in the pictures are mostly dark-skinned. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Blandly inspirational fare made to evoke equally shrink-wrapped responses. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-250-81003-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2022

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I AM WALT DISNEY

From the Ordinary People Change the World series

Blandly laudatory.

The iconic animator introduces young readers to each “happy place” in his life.

The tally begins with his childhood home in Marceline, Missouri, and climaxes with Disneyland (carefully designed to be “the happiest place on Earth”), but the account really centers on finding his true happy place, not on a map but in drawing. In sketching out his early flubs and later rocket to the top, the fictive narrator gives Ub Iwerks and other Disney studio workers a nod (leaving his labor disputes with them unmentioned) and squeezes in quick references to his animated films, from Steamboat Willie to Winnie the Pooh (sans Fantasia and Song of the South). Eliopoulos incorporates stills from the films into his cartoon illustrations and, characteristically for this series, depicts Disney as a caricature, trademark mustache in place on outsized head even in childhood years and child sized even as an adult. Human figures default to white, with occasional people of color in crowd scenes and (ahistorically) in the animation studio. One unidentified animator builds up the role-modeling with an observation that Walt and Mickey were really the same (“Both fearless; both resourceful”). An assertion toward the end—“So when do you stop being a child? When you stop dreaming”—muddles the overall follow-your-bliss message. A timeline to the EPCOT Center’s 1982 opening offers photos of the man with select associates, rodent and otherwise. An additional series entry, I Am Marie Curie, publishes simultaneously, featuring a gowned, toddler-sized version of the groundbreaking physicist accepting her two Nobel prizes.

Blandly laudatory. (bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2875-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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