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.
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!
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?
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!