One Grain of Rice: A Mathematical Folktale

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A traditional tale of India, as well as miniatures produced in that country in the 16th and 17th centuries, inspired this visually striking book. Set off by simple red and gold frames, Demi's (Buddha; Buddha Stories, see p. 108) atmospheric, authentic-looking illustrations-some featuring shiny gold backdrops-dominate these graceful pages. Figures sometimes dart beyond the frames, too, adding a Western mobility and quickening the visual appeal. Revolving around a raja who hoards his people's supply of rice during a famine, the tale teaches a lesson about selfishness as well as a basic multiplication theorem. When Rani returns some grains of rice that spilled from one of the raja's baskets, the ruler gives the girl the reward she requests: one grain of rice on that day, and for 29 subsequent days, double the amount of rice as the day before. Underscoring just how astute the child's negotiation is, Demi includes a double-page foldout depicting the take on the 30th day: 256 elephants carry 536,870,912 grains of rice, bringing Rani's total yield to more than one billion grains-enough to feed the entire kingdom. Unfortunately, readers follow a rather monotonous path to reach this effective conclusion, as the author recites a litany of how many bags and how many grains of rice are delivered on various-though thankfully not all-days in the time period. In the end, it isn't the plot that impresses, but rather the elegance and serenity of the accomplished art. Ages 5-8. (Apr.)
Children's Literature - Marilyn Courtot
This mathematical folktale from India has been told several times recently, but what sets Demi's book apart is her beautiful bordered artwork rendered in rich colors and generously surrounded by white space. Your eyes are drawn to the art and frequently to the heroine, Rani, who is often outside the framed scenes. Clever Rani saves her people from starvation by requesting, as her reward for a good deed, just one grain of rice doubled every day for thirty days. The raja thinks this is a foolish and paltry reward, but he soon learns the magnitude of this doubling. The gatefolds of camels and elephants laden with rice bring the point home visually to young readers while the table at the end explains the math. The raja learns his lesson and all ends well.
School Library Journal
Gr 1-4--A resourceful village girl outsmarts a greedy raja, turning a reward of one grain of rice into a feast for a hungry nation. Delicate paintings emblazoned with touches of gold give this Indian folktale an exotic air. (March)
School Library Journal
Gr 1-4In this elegantly illustrated traditional Indian tale, a greedy raja rewards a village girl for her honesty by granting her anything she would ask. The clever Rani asks for one single grain of rice to be doubled daily for 30 days: 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, and so on. By the 27th day, 32 Brahma bulls are needed to deliver the 64 baskets of rice; on the 30th and final day, two pages fold out to convince unbelieving readers of the enormous quantity: 256 elephants march in rows and columns, carrying the entire contents of the royal warehouses. All together, there are over one billion rice grains. Demi's paint-and-ink illustrations, styled after 16th- and 17th-century Indian miniature paintings, are framed in red and gold. Precisely rendered animals and characters stand out against the opulently colored backgrounds, while the red-clothed raja and Rani are often depicted against gold. The mathematical concept, the binary sequence, is clearly presented within the story but also summarized numerically on a chart on the last page. While there are other versions of this folktale available, such as Helena Pittman's A Grain of Rice (Bantam, 1992), David Birch's The King's Chessboard (Dial, 1988), and David Barry's The Rajah's Rice (Freeman, 1995), none match Demi's for authenticity, illustrative grandeur, and textual clarity. A terrific choice for illuminating the curriculum: art of India, folklore, and, of course, mathematics.Susan Hepler, Alexandria City Public Schools, VA
Kirkus Reviews
In artwork inspired by Indian miniatures (though lacking their exquisiteness), Demi (The Stonecutter, 1995, etc.) fashions a folktale with far-reaching effects. The raja of a rice-growing village orders his subjects to deliver to him the bulk of their harvest; he will keep it safe should a famine occur. A few years later the harvest fails, and so does the raja: "Promise or no promise, a raja must not go hungry," he intones. When a young village girl, Rani, returns to the raja some rice that had fallen from baskets laden for his consumption, he offers her a reward. Her request is seemingly modest: a grain of rice on the first day, two grains the next, four grains on the third; each day double the rice of the day before, for 30 days. The raja, though, doesn't grasp the power of doubling. Day 21 garners 1,048,576 grains of rice; on the last day it takes fold-out flaps to show the herd of elephants necessary to convey the rice to Rani, who feeds the masses and extracts from the raja a promise to be more generous. This gratifying story of the disarming of greed provides an amazing look at the doubling process, and a calendar at the end shows how the reward simply grew and grew.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780590939997
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/1/1997

Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2003

    An Excellent story - An Excellent Math Lesson!

    As a math teacher, I am always looking for good literature that incorporates mathematical ideas. This book has it all- beautiful illustrations, a wonderful story, and math concepts! Young children will enjoy the story, older children will benefit from the underlying math lesson!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 10, 2002

    Excellent storytelling

    This book beautifully paints the Indian landscape, people and culture and then tells an intelligent story. The underlying math gets more and more interesting with the pictures. My 6 and 8 year old nephews jumped toward the end with excitement. The unfolding pages and the mathematical chart at the end made the climax very enjoyable. It is so entertaining, before you realize it, you've learned a math lesson.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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