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
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.