Marshmallow reviews Logicomix by Apostolos Doxiadis, Christos H. Papadimitriou, Alecos Papadatos, and Annie di Donna

Marshmallow recently got her paws on Logicomix, a graphic novel telling of the first two-thirds of philosopher-mathematician Bertrand Russell‘s life, as it is intertwined with the story of the stormy events related to the philosophical foundations of mathematics that occurred in the early twentieth century. The book is most likely not intended for young readers, but Marshmallow found it interesting and wanted to review it for the book bunnies blog. Below is her conversation with Sprinkles about this book, written by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos H. Papadimitriou, and illustrated by Alecos Papadatos and Annie di Donna.

Marshmallow reviews Logicomix, written by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos H. Papadimitriou, and illustrated by Alecos Papadatos and Annie di Donna.
Marshmallow reviews Logicomix, written by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos H. Papadimitriou, and illustrated by Alecos Papadatos and Annie di Donna.

Sprinkles: So Marshmallow, tell us a little about this book.

Marshmallow: The first thing I want to say is that this is not a children’s book. It’s not necessarily inappropriate for children, but some concepts might be confusing for young bunnies.

S: Why did you read it?

M: It looked interesting. It is a graphic novel and I like those.

S: I see. So tell us what it is about.

M: It’s about Bertrand Russell. He is a philosopher. Basically it is about his life.

S: And the book has a really intriguing subtitle: “An Epic Search for Truth”. How is that related to Russell?

M: I think it’s because he spent a lot of time thinking about what truth means, the true meaning of “true”.

S: Yes, Russell is a foundational figure for modern mathematical logic today. I find his story fascinating and I really liked this book myself when I read it. So what else do you want to tell us?

M: There are parts of the book where the two authors, the illustrators, and a researcher who is helping them with the project are talking among themselves. And there are the other parts where we basically follow Bertrand Russell give a speech about his life and his work in logic. The speech is supposed to be about “the role of logic in human affairs” and apparently Russell did not give any such speech.

S: But it probably makes a good plot device to tell us about his life, I guess.

M: Yes, I think it works.

Marshmallow is reading Logicomix, written by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos H. Papadimitriou, and illustrated by Alecos Papadatos and Annie di Donna.
Marshmallow is reading Logicomix, written by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos H. Papadimitriou, and illustrated by Alecos Papadatos and Annie di Donna.

S: So did you know about Bertrand Russell before reading this book?

M: No.

S: What do you think about him now, after having read it?

M: I think he is an interesting person. But according to this book review you showed me, not everything in the book is accurate.

S: Yes, I think the authors themselves say they took some artistic license with some of the facts. And that book review is a careful scholarly overview of the book that readers who might be curious about the accuracy of the text might check out. But let us get back to your reading of the book. What appealed to you most about this book?

M: Well, I liked the switch between the creators of the book and the subject of the book. It made things interesting. I also did not know about Russell and Wittgenstein and Gödel, and any of those philosophers, so I learned a lot.

S: And the book does cover a lot of ground in terms of the foundational debates of the early twentieth century. How did all that work out for you?

M: What do you mean by foundational debates?

S: I mean, the questions about the foundations of mathematics, of logic, of truth. How these folks were trying to understand why mathematics was true, how it worked, and so on.

M: I think some of that went over my head. But I did find it cool that people were thinking so hard about why math is true.

S: I know you find philosophical questions intriguing. The ones in this book are quite specific to math, it seems at first, but then if you think about it, we all want to know what is true, what makes something true, as opposed to false, fake news, or disinformation, or misinformation.

M: Yes. I did a project on all those this year. I used this website which talks about all the dangers of dihydrogen monoxide, and how it is everywhere, and how you should be very very afraid. But of course dihydrogen monoxide is just H2O, which is water!

S: Yes, I really liked your project! So we know it is sometimes hard to know what is true and what is not. And this book is about some philosophers who are trying to think about these questions very carefully and trying to see how to connect them to math.

M: Yes, I think that makes sense.

S: So I know you were not looking for philosophy or math when you started. Did all that overwhelm you when you were reading it?

M: No. I think they explained things in ways people could understand. I guess some things are a bit confusing, and I probably did miss some things, and maybe younger bunnies might not get any of the philosophical stuff, but it was interesting for me.

S: That’s great Marshmallow! And maybe you will come back to this book in a few years’ time if you are curious to dig deeper into the philosophical questions in it. I’m glad you read it!

M: Me too.

S: So as we wrap up this review, I’ll ask how you rate the book…

M: I rate this book 95%.

S: Sounds good! I know you always like to end our chats the way Caramel ends his reviews. So go ahead!

M: Stay tuned for more book bunny reviews!

Marshmallow has enjoyed reading Logicomix, written by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos H. Papadimitriou, and illustrated by Alecos Papadatos and Annie di Donna and rates it 95%.
Marshmallow has enjoyed reading Logicomix, written by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos H. Papadimitriou, and illustrated by Alecos Papadatos and Annie di Donna and rates it 95%.

Caramel reviews The Boy Who Dreamed of Infinity by Amy Alznauer

This week Caramel is talking about The Boy Who Dreamed of Infinity, written by Amy Alznauer and illustrated by Daniel Miyares, the beautifully told and magically illustrated story of the mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan. As usual Sprinkles is taking notes and asking questions.

Caramel reviews The Boy Who Dreamed of Infinity, written by Amy Alznauer and illustrated by Daniel Miyares.
Caramel reviews The Boy Who Dreamed of Infinity, written by Amy Alznauer and illustrated by Daniel Miyares.

Sprinkles: So Caramel tell us about this book.

Caramel: You say that all the time!

S: I know, right? I do that because I think that is a good way to get you to start talking about the book. So?

C: Hmm, let me think a bit. This book is about a boy who went to school but his math is far more advanced than his classmates’.

S: So what does he do with that math?

C: He keeps on writing in a notebook, doing more and more math. And then he gets another notebook and writes in it.

S: So he is doing math almost compulsively. He seems like he cannot stop himself, right? He is driven to do math.

C: Yes. He sees numbers everywhere and then he opens up, divides, or cracks up the numbers to find more numbers in them.

S: Right! I liked the way the author put it (and this is also in the back cover of the book):

If Ramanujan could crack the number 1 open and find infinity, what secrets would he discover inside other numbers?

Caramel is reading The Boy Who Dreamed of Infinity, written by Amy Alznauer and illustrated by Daniel Miyares. These pages are about when Ramanujan as a little boy was not yet speaking. Instead, he "just lined up the copper pots across the floor. And when he didn't get his curd rice and mango, he rolled in the monsoon mud."
Caramel is reading The Boy Who Dreamed of Infinity, written by Amy Alznauer and illustrated by Daniel Miyares. These pages are about when Ramanujan as a little boy was not yet speaking. Instead, he “just lined up the copper pots across the floor. And when he didn’t get his curd rice and mango, he rolled in the monsoon mud.”

C: So why did he do math? Because he had to.

S: What do you mean? Is someone forcing him to do math?

C: No he wants to do it. And he cannot stop doing it. It’s almost compulsive.

S: That’s a big word for a little bunny Caramel!

C: I know. I do read a lot.

S: So the title of this book is The Boy Who Dreamed of Infinity. This reminds me of the book with a similar title: The Man Who Knew Infinity, by Robert Kanigel. That book is also about Ramanujan, but it is not a beautifully illustrated book for kids like this one. And that book tells us about Ramanujan’s whole life while this one is more about him as a little boy when he was dreaming math and finding it all around him.

C: Oh that is interesting. I think I remember us watching a movie with that name.

S: You have a good memory!

C: Can we put in the trailer here?

S: Sure. Here we go.

S: So tell me more about this book. Do you like the pictures?

C: Yep. They are very detailed, and they are like they are from a dream. There are two pages where the boy is dancing around and jumping over numbers.

Caramel is reading The Boy Who Dreamed of Infinity, written by Amy Alznauer and illustrated by Daniel Miyares. These pages are about the nights when "while he slept, numbers came whispering in dreams."
Caramel is reading The Boy Who Dreamed of Infinity, written by Amy Alznauer and illustrated by Daniel Miyares. These pages are about the nights when “while he slept, numbers came whispering in dreams.”

S: Yes, that page especially but the rest of the pictures are also dreamlike. The colors and the combination of images… But back to that page where Ramanujan is jumping around numbers: Can you imagine yourself jumping and flipping around numbers?

C: Of course! I like jumping! I’m a bunny!

S: That is true! Here is my last question: What does this book make you think about math?

C: Multiplication and division and addition, and numbers, and infinity.

S: Does it make you like them? Do you feel like you could enjoy playing around with numbers?

C: Yes, I already do! I like math!

S: That is great! Ok, this is a good time to wrap things up.

C: I want to rate this!

S: Ok. Give me three words that describe this book.

C: Detailed, mathematics, beautiful.

S: These are good descriptors for the book. I agree. I’d add “dream, infinity, imagination”. So what do we say to end this review?

C: Stay tuned for more book bunnies adventures!

Caramel enjoyed reading The Boy Who Dreamed of Infinity, written by Amy Alznauer and illustrated by Daniel Miyares, and recommends it to all little bunnies.
Caramel enjoyed reading The Boy Who Dreamed of Infinity, written by Amy Alznauer and illustrated by Daniel Miyares, and recommends it to all little bunnies.

Caramel reviews Ying and the Magic Turtle by Sue Looney

Caramel just got his paws on a new book from Natural Math, the good folks who publish fun mathy books for kids. (Marshmallow has reviewed a book from them before; see her review of Funville Adventures by A.O. Fradkin and A.B. Bishop.) Below he shares his thoughts on Ying and the Magic Turtle, written by Sue Looney, and illustrated by Jessica and Joey Looney. As usual Sprinkles is taking notes and asking followup questions.

Caramel reviews Ying and the Magic Turtle by Sue Looney.
Caramel reviews Ying and the Magic Turtle by Sue Looney.

Sprinkles: So Caramel what do you want to tell us about this book?

Caramel: This is a book about a little Chinese girl named Ying. She is smarter than soldiers.

S: Where do the soldiers come into her story?

C: It is not all about her.

S: So what is the book about?

C: It is about this river god Hebo, who has a really bad temper. He needs to learn anger management.

S: We read several books about anger management before. And you reviewed some, too, for this blog.

C: Yes, true. I did review Train Your Angry Dragon and Train Your Dragon To Accept NO by Steve Herman. So I guess Hebo should read those books too.

S: You are a funny little bunny Caramel! So what happens with this angry god?

C: So the god gets angry and floods all the villages. And then a turtle comes out of the river, so the Emperor’s men think it means they need to give Hebo a royal gift. And Ying sees that the turtle has an interesting pattern on its shell.

S: So is that where the math comes in?

C: Yep. It’s a magic square!

Caramel is looking at the page where the magic turtle emerges from the water in Ying and the Magic Turtle by Sue Looney.
Caramel is looking at the page where the magic turtle emerges from the water in Ying and the Magic Turtle by Sue Looney.

S: What is a magic square?

C: Let me read to you from the book:

Magic squares are square grids where one number s placed in each box of the grid. The numbers placed in the boxes are consecutive numbers from one up to the total number of boxes in the square. For example in a 3×3 magic square there are nine boxes; therefore each number (one through nine) is placed in one of the boxes. When placed correctly, the sum of these numbers is the same for all rows, columns, and diagonals. This sum in a 3×3 magic square is always 15.

S: So what happens next?

C: The next day the turtle comes out again. The emperor’s men think it means Hebo wants four gifts because the turtle has four legs.

S: But Ying knows better, right?

C: Yes. She solves the magic square. And so she saves the villages.

S: Did you know what a magic square was before reading this story, Caramel?

C: No.

S: So this was a neat way to learn about them, no? Apparently according to Wikipedia, the three by three magic squares were known to Chinese “as early as 190 BCE”. And magic squares are fun to play with. And there are some fun problems at the end of the book if you want to play with them. Did you solve any of the problems in the book?

C: Yes. I solved all of them. Ok, all except one. There is also a section “Origin of the Story” where we learn about the history of the problem.

S: Yes, apparently this story is inspired by an ancient Chinese legend. Isn’t that neat?

C: It is! And this is a neat time to end this review. So stay tuned for more book bunnies adventures!

Caramel enjoyed reading Ying and the Magic Turtle by Sue Looney. and recommends it to all other book bunnies.
Caramel enjoyed reading Ying and the Magic Turtle by Sue Looney, and recommends it to all other book bunnies.

Sprinkles reviews Women Who Count: Honoring African American Women Mathematicians by Shelly M. Jones

Sprinkles reviews Shelly M. Jones’ book Women Who Count: Honoring African American Women Mathematicians (illustrated by Veronica Martins).

Sprinkles got her paws on Dr. Shelly M. Jones’ book Women Who Count: Honoring African American Women Mathematicians (illustrated by Veronica Martins) recently and enjoyed it so much that she wanted to review it here. Below is her review. Enjoy!

Sprinkles reviews Women Who Count: Honoring African American Women Mathematicians, written by Shelly M. Jones and illustrated by Veronica Martins.
Sprinkles reviews Women Who Count: Honoring African American Women Mathematicians, written by Shelly M. Jones and illustrated by Veronica Martins.

There have been several books and films about African American women mathematicians and their contributions recently, following the release of the amazing 2016 movie Hidden Figures. A well-rounded collection of books, toys, and posters celebrating Katherine Johnson is reviewed at the A Mighty Girl blog. I have mentioned a couple of related books here myself at the end of my review of children’s books about Ada Lovelace. But the book I am going to tell you about today is a quite different type of book. And I believe any parent wanting to encourage their young ones to find joy in mathematics and learn about possibilities of a wide range of futures in STEM might appreciate this book.

The book introduces through brief biographical essays and clean illustrations a selection of 29 African American women who have found their career paths through mathematics. Among them are mathematicians, atmospheric scientists, computer engineers, and education researchers. In four sections, the book introduces the first three African American women with mathematics PhDs, nine pioneering mathematicians who led the way for many others along the path to a mathematical career, four of the women making up the six hidden figures in the eponymous 2016 book by Margot Lee Shetterly, and finally thirteen contemporary mathematicians who bring us to today.

Sprinkles is reading the pages about Dr. Evelyn Boyd Granville, the second African American woman to earn a PhD in mathematics.
Sprinkles is reading the pages about Dr. Evelyn Boyd Granville, the second African American woman to earn a PhD in mathematics.

Dr. Shelly Jones writes in her introduction:

“I am proud to have the opportunity to share the stories of these 29 extraordinary women so that [you] can benefit from learning about a variety of occupational fields related to mathematics. … You may use this book as a springboard into the world of mathematics. Have you ever heard of a magic square, a tessellation, or sudoku? … There is something for everyone in this book.”

Indeed the book is chock-full of fun activities that will engage young ones (aiming for both elementary and middle school kids here). There are coloring pages, there are puzzles and mazes, and there are learning activities about a range of mathematical topics which are typically not a part of a school curriculum but will be accessible to and entertaining for young people.

Sprinkles is pointing towards the page where Dr. Erica Walker, a professor of mathematics education at Teachers College, Columbia University, is introduced. The page is accompanied by another where readers are invited to play with colors and symmetry.

But of course this is not just a standard math-is-fun activity book. The author adds in her introduction:

“Have fun doing the activities, but don’t forget to read and learn about these wonderful women who happen to love mathematics!”

And that is what makes this book special. The stories of these women are inspirational and inviting. The reader is invited to think about mathematics as an exciting career path, or, perhaps more accurately, as a gateway to many different exciting career paths. In particular, seeing the illustrations of these women (and photos of the contemporary ones) might help all children see mathematics as a real possibility for themselves and their friends. As Dr. Reagan Higgins, one of the women portrayed in this book writes:

“It is important we show children who and what they can be.”

Children early on start to digest the prevalent societal message that mathematics (and more generally STEM) is for men. Furthermore, standard curricula and mainstream depictions of STEM do not offer young children of color many role models in STEM that they can identify with. This book is a neat addition to kid-friendly content created by people trying to change this status quo.

The activities are not “girly” in particular; boys and girls alike can enjoy them. And it is good for both boys and girls, of any background, to be exposed to examples of mathematicians and mathematical scientists who do not fit stereotypes and societal assumptions of who can do math. I would strongly recommend Women Who Count: Honoring African American Women Mathematicians, written by Shelly M. Jones and illustrated by Veronica Martins. to any parent interested in encouraging their young ones to engage with the ideas and people of mathematics.

The book started as a Kickstarter project and is currently published by the American Mathematical Society.

Sprinkles enthusiastically recommends Women Who Count: Honoring African American Women Mathematicians, written by Shelly M. Jones and illustrated by Veronica Martins.
Sprinkles enthusiastically recommends Women Who Count: Honoring African American Women Mathematicians, written by Shelly M. Jones and illustrated by Veronica Martins.