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From the PublisherA math-loving sultana challenges her suitors to solve a riddle in an original tale that puts an appealingly independent young woman in charge of a traditional fairytale style "beauty contest." A powerful Persian sultan wants only the best of husband for his only daughter, Aziza, and when his advisors fail him, he allows her to dictate the terms of her courtship. She announces that she will marry whoever can answer her riddle: "Placed above, it makes greater things small. Placed beside, it makes small things greater. In matters that count, it always comes first. Where others increase, it keeps all things the same. What is it?" An astronomer, a soldier, and a merchant in turn fail to solve the riddle, but Ahmed, a young farmer who loves numbers, answers the riddle and wins the sultana's hand. Aziza's riddle is tricky enough to be satisfying but not too obscure for older children to solve on their own. Thompson (Mouse's First Halloween, p 968, etc.) includes an author's note explaining the riddle and its solution fully, as well as Persia's place in the history of mathematics. Wingerter's (Bird Tales from Near and Far, 1998) delicate jewel-and-pastel acrylics evoke a glowing storybook Persia, and cleverly illustrate the solution to the riddles as Ahmed answers it. Taken down to its bare bones, the books marriage plot is as old as the hills, but Aziza's intelligence and the lovely illustrations make a pleasing example thereof.
--Kirkus Reviews, December 15, 2000
The learned daughter of a Persian sultan takes center stage in Thompson's (Love One Another, The Last Days of Jesus) feminist tale with a mathematical twist. When, it comes time for Aziza to marry, the clever young woman calls on her love of numbers and riddles to devise a means of finding a husband. "Let me pose a riddle.... The riddle has but one true answer. Whoever can answer the riddle- will be the one I would be happiest to marry," she tells her father. After an astronomer, a soldier and a merchant each supply an answer that solves only one portion 6f the riddle, a humble farmer gets all four parts right and wins Aziza's hand. Thompson chooses her riddle wisely, since it presents a challenge for her audience, yet perspicacious readers can solve it by themselves. As the successful suitor explains his numerical solution to the riddle Wingerter works the relevant numbers into, her stylized acrylic paintings, which also incorporate Persian patterns and designs. The author's concluding note provides the thinking behind the problem's solution as well as a short history of Persia's contribution to our own numerical system. In sum, the volume's well- balanced narrative and art add up to an original fairy tale with an appealing dimension.
---Publishers Weekly, Feb. 19th, 2001
The learned princess Aziza persuades her loving father to allow her to pose a riddle in order to choose the man she should marry. Aziza's riddle confounds suitor after suitor ("men young and old tried to solve the riddle. But none had the answer"). Finally, a young farmer, a lover of numbers like the princess, offers the mathematical solution. The two embrace their joined fates: "With this answer, you have won my hand,' says Aziza; 'With this riddle, you have won my heart," Ahmed replies. Thompson shapes her story very like a traditional folktale and draws on motifs and images that will resonate with readers and storytellers familiar with wise princesses and their search for suitably enlightened or at least clever spouses. The author sets her tale in Persia, making Aziza the daughter of an indulgent sultan. The story is not linked to any specific source, although the author's concluding note discusses the complex calculations of Aziza's riddle and explains the origin of mathematics in ancient Persia. Thompson's storytelling is simple and elegant, her language is graceful and understated, the focus always on Aziza's ability to rise to the occasi