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

Candlewick. Apr. 2020. 48p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780763690489.
Gr 4-6–This admiring picture book biography of Indian-born mathematical genius Srinivasa Ramanujan (1887–1920) opens with his early childhood. He liked to ponder complex questions about numbers, which his teachers were unequipped to answer. As he grew older, Ramanujan worked feverishly to find solutions, each leading to more questions and answers. His ideas evolved over time, and he developed unique formulas to solve them. In his early 20s, at the urging of colleagues and friends, Ramanujan wrote to mathematicians at Cambridge University about his theories. One last letter earned an invitation, and he sailed to Britain in 1914. He died at age 32, but his mathematical contributions live on. This engaging volume portrays the development of a brilliant, inquisitive mind and includes text inspired by the subject’s own words. Students will learn terms in Tamil (definitions provided through context). While some concepts may confound the mathematically challenged, Ramanujan’s resilience should motivate students to hold onto their passions. Oddly, his birth and death dates aren’t given and are absent in the informative author’s note. The lively, delicate ink drawings capture the sights, colors, and culture of India and, on some pages, depict numbers playfully cavorting, just as they tumbled in Ramanujan’s brain.
VERDICT Best for talented math students and others who enjoy exploring favorite subjects independently. Recommended for schools and large public collections; useful where STEM biographies are needed.

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