Every time we divide a whole into parts our mathematical skills are put to use. Without even being aware we are constantly fractionizing our day and many things in it. We know it takes forty-five minutes to get from point A to point B; every fifteen minutes we are a third of the way closer. The last two brownies are cut in half to share between four family members. It takes ten pails of water to fill the kiddie pool one quarter full.
While we may not be consciously aware of these numerical nuances, there are those thrilled with any opportunity to practice their expertise in this area. In fact there are even people who collect fractions. I know it's hard to believe it's true but in Fractions in Disguise: A Mathematical Adventure (Charlesbridge) written by Edward Einhorn with illustrations by David Clark, three people are victims of an evil mind.
Some kids collect baseball cards. Some collect action figures. Me? I collect fractions. I've been collecting them for exactly 2/3 of my life. In my bedroom, shelves full of fractions cover 3/4 of the walls.
As you may have surmised George Cornelius Factor is a walking, talking fraction fanatic. He is joined in this love by Baron von Mathematik and Madame de Geometrique. The three are in attendance at an auction for a beautiful object, a brand new 5/9. A rather sinister figure, Dr. Brok, is lurking in the background.
Bids are reaching the one million dollar amount when the room suddenly goes dark. All eyes land on the empty pedestal when the lights are turned on once more. The valuable 5/9 piece is missing; so is Dr. Brok.
As the Baron and Madame are lamenting its disappearance, GCF has a plan. Dr. Brok may have met his match. Dr. Brok thinks he's pretty clever with turning 1/2 into 4/8 or 3/6 attempting to hide a fraction's true essence but GCF goes to work spending the entire night creating his own device, the Reducer.
This gizmo has the ability to take a fraction down to its lowest terms. A number is dialed before it shoots. If the fraction is divisible by it, an immediate change can be witnessed; otherwise either the numerator or denominator simply struggle to shift but remain the same.
George Cornelius Factor goes to Dr. Brok's mansion demanding entrance and accusing him of the theft. The shifty swindler loses some of his oily charm when he sees the Reducer in action. Up, down and all around GCF goes but the missing 5/9 is nowhere to be found in the piles of fractions...or is it?
Cleverly inserting numbers into the narrative and dialogue Edward Einhorn manages to entertain while informing in a flawless flow. Engaged in the puzzling mystery and humorous action, readers will accept the mathematical terms like any other descriptive words in a story. His use of word play supplies the final elements in the formula for fractional fun. Here is a short sample from the book.
Dr. Brok lived in a mansion that had to be 1/10 of a mile tall. When I rang the bell, he opened the door halfway.
The colorful comic cartoon figure (none other than George Cornelius Factor) on the matching dust jacket and book case, piles of circles (fractions) within a larger circle, the Reducer resting on his knees, is the type of scene on every page in this title. All the pictures are set on a white background with the exception of one spanning a single or double page. Using ink and watercolor David Clark inserts exaggerated personality traits in his character portrayals giving an academic, old-world feel to the surrounding items in each illustration.
His details add an extra dimension; the 4/8 spike on the Baron's helmet, the complicated machine Dr. Brok uses to disguise the fractions, the paper scroll coming from the Reducer with the mathematical fraction action on it and the mouse looking a bit scared as it gnaws on a broken fraction. The larger than life eyes, hairstyles (including bald), noses and lips along with the attire worn by the characters will definitely raise the smileage level they bring to the story. Splashes of red, hues of red, add warmth and zing to the pictures.
One of my favorite two page spreads is when George Cornelius Factor holds up the ultimate clue to trapping Dr. Brok in his deception. The look of triumph on GCF's face contrasts nicely with the look of pure guilt on Dr. Brok's face. George's arm extending from his body on the left grows larger in perception as he grips the object between two fingers in front of Dr. Brok. Readers will be thinking "Ah-Ha" when they see this.
Fractions in Disguise written by Edward Einhorn with illustrations by David Clark is one of those fun-filled books about math adults will want to have because their children will enjoy the story completely. Even after several readings I still find myself grinning at the exclamations made by the characters. I recommend reading this with a separate voice for each one. George Cornelius Factor and fractions are the heroes of the day.
Back matter on the final page further explains reducing fractions. For more information about Edward Einhorn please follow the link embedded in his name above. This is one of many books in the Adventures in Math series found at the publisher's website.
Wednesdays are a terrific day for nonfiction books. I am pleased to be a part of Alyson Beecher's 2014 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge highlighted on her blog, Kid Lit Frenzy. There are many excellent titles listed there by other bloggers.