Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Thursday, June 28, 2018

More Than You Ever Know

To begin, focus on what you are doing at this exact moment and scan the area where you are.  Then start to assign numbers to everything.  There are three devices, a phone, a tablet and a laptop, on two surfaces.  There are one hundred keys on the keyboard of that laptop. Of the seven lights in the room eleven light bulbs are needed.  A single roasted almond, great for snacks, needs to be chewed eighteen times before swallowing.  There is one dog chewing on one bone.

It's fun, mind-blowing and a little crazy to use mathematics to define your surroundings but it gives your world a more interesting perspective.  A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars (Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, October  3, 2017) written by Seth Fishman with illustrations by Isabel Greenberg explores our world one number at a time.  Once you read this, nothing will ever be the same.

Let me tell you a secret.
The sun is just a star.

The next statement is the title of the book with a (maybe) tacked to the declaration.  As we move away from the sun we encounter the planets.  One of them is where we live. It's colored blue and green for a reason.  Do you know how many gallons of water cover the Earth?  Do you know how many trees are standing on this planet?

If we go to the dark side of the planet, twinkling lights signify the places where people are living.  Count them; the number is astonishing.  In those places with twinkling lights people are reading books; even a book with the title A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars.  Did you know the weight of all those people who live there is about the

same as ten quadrillion ants.

(The ten quadrillion ants live there, too.)

Of course, the weight of the ants and the people is woefully less than the weight of our planet.  This weight keeps our moon in its orbit around us.  This weight also allows us to have gravity.  We are then told the distance from earth to the moon in miles which is approximately the same as the distance from zooming around our planet ten times.  A comparison of linking readers head to foot or an assortment of living things or objects end to end is the same as that distance.  Wow!

After talking about seconds and the amount needed to add another year to our lives, the counting starts.  An abundant amount of raindrops (1,620 trillion) fall in an average thunderstorm.  How is it possible to

eat up to 70 pounds of bugs . . . or more

in our lifetime?  You won't believe how many rabbits are in the world.  One of the most astonishing facts is that these numbers are constantly changing.  The final secret disclosed by the author will leave every reader smiling.

What author Seth Fishman accomplishes with his writing, is to inform and inspire. Choosing which numbers to disclose and connecting them in a seamless pattern fully engages readers.  His technique of not simply revealing the numerical amounts but making them personally relevant to each reader increases our interest.  Each sentence is a discovery made with enthusiasm in an easy conversational manner.  How can we not be more excited about the vastness of the world in which we live? Here is another passage.

Now take a deep breath
and hold it for five seconds.

Just do that another
6,307,200 times,
and you'll be a year older!

The opened and matching dust jacket and book case supply readers with lots of hints about what they will find inside.  It also will have them asking what rabbits, ants and a shark have in common.  The title text and spirited image on the bottom of the front are varnished.  To the left, on the back, swirling about our planet is a collection of people (and one rabbit) and other objects. A group of questions challenge us to think.

On the opening and closing endpapers among a sky filled with stars are people from places around the world, sitting in their beds, looking at us.  Many of them have books and have paused their reading.  This, like the jacket and case, is a suggestion of moments to come.

All the illustrations, in full color, were prepared digitally by Isabel Greenberg.  Many of the pages include skies replete with stars of all sizes and whirling objects.  Even when we journey inside those same forms appear as patterns or as other elements in a picture. The fabric on a child's bedspread is covered in stars.  A crescent moon hangs in the sky as the child bounces on a trampoline.  The swirls in a swimming pool are like those in the sky.

The inclusion of numerous items in each illustration, whether they span two pages or a single page, encourages us to pause.  We study the pictures knowing each one is extending the narrative and telling its own story.  The children featured in these visuals are from around the world and mirror the marvelous diversity to be found.

One of my many favorite illustrations spans two pages.  It's the interior of a bathroom.  On the left is a window with a potted cactus on the sill.  A navy shade decorated with yellow stars and a crescent moon is partially pulled down.  A claw footed bathtub sits on a large black and white tiled floor.  A rubber ducky floats in the water.  On a mat next to the tub the family cat, on its back with tucked paws, is gazing upward with apprehension.  To the right is the toilet.  In the middle of the floor a child, standing on a scale, holds up planet Earth as if she is Atlas.  The planet covers much of the right side, crosses the gutter and spreads to the left.

This title, A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars written by Seth Fishman with illustrations by Isabel Greenberg, is an honoree of The Boston Globe-Horn Book Award announced May 31, 2018.  It also garnered a Mathical Award.  At the close of the book, in an author's note, Seth chats about the numbers used in this book.  This would be a stellar addition to your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Seth Fishman and Isabel Greenberg, follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  At the publisher's website you can view interior pages.  There are links to an activity guide and a teacher's guide.  Educator Alyson Beecher, host of Kid Lit Frenzy, interviews Seth Fishman on December 6, 2017 about this title.

Be sure to visit Alyson Beecher's Kid Lit Frenzy this week to see what other titles are featured by participants in the 2018 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.

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