Alznauer, Amy

The Boy Who Dreamed of Infinity: A Tale of the Genius Ramanujan

(2) K-3 Illustrated by Daniel Miyares. This eloquently written picture-book biography gives voice to the brilliant--and self-taught--mathematician Srinivasa Iyengar Ramanujan. Born in South India in the late nineteenth century, Ramanujan was a late talker, and when he finally did speak, his unusual questions set him apart. "What is small?...And what is big?" As the boy thought long and hard about infinity, "numbers leaped and roared." However, "in school, numbers were different, stiff and straight, obeying the rules." After he flunked out of college (he ignored his non-math courses), his mother arranged a ­marriage for him, and he ­eventually found work as a clerk in Madras. Encouraged by local mathematicians and his British supervisors, he wrote letters to the top mathematicians at Cambridge University. In 1914, Ramanujan traveled to England, eager to share his mathematical insights--and to no longer feel isolated, "like the first man in the world with no one to hear me speak." Alznauer employs a handful of Tamil words to good effect, and articulately conveys the concept of infinity. She also revisits, quite poignantly, Ramanujan's spiritual anchor--his grandmother's dream of a Hindu goddess who promised to "write the thoughts of God on [his] tongue." Miyares's ink-wash illustrations play with light and dark in realistic scenes and whimsical number-filled spreads. An author's note includes further biographical details and explains that many of the thoughts and quotes are "inspired by" Ramanujan's actual words; a bibliography is also appended.


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