The Boy Who Loved Math by Deborah Heiligman Book Review

The Boy Who Loved Math by Deborah Heiligman
Illustrations by LeUyen Pham
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Release Date: June 25, 2013

Most people think of mathematicians as solitary, working away in isolation. And, it's true, many of them do. But Paul Erdos never followed the usual path. At the age of four, he could ask you when you were born and then calculate the number of seconds you had been alive in his head. But he didn't learn to butter his own bread until he turned twenty. Instead, he traveled around the world, from one mathematician to the next, collaborating on an astonishing number of publications. With a simple, lyrical text and richly layered illustrations, this is a beautiful introduction to the world of math and a fascinating look at the unique character traits that made "Uncle Paul" a great man.

How do I miss these books? Seriously, how do these books come out and me not hear about them until a year later. This is ridiculous. There I am sitting in book club and someone mentions it, so of course I add it to my list, and am absolutely appalled that I had not heard of this one before now. That said, I so incredibly glad that I found it. Now, I must first preface this review by stating that math and I have never been allies. From the time I was in elementary school, numbers and the manipulating of them have been a struggle. I had a math tutor for almost 6 years and I still barely passed it in high school. And then I had to take remedial math in college. Yet, I loved this book.

This is what I want a picture book biography. The childhood to adulthood, that still keeps the life story simple and understandable. Paul Erdos was a very interesting man and I imagine that if he were born today he would probably be diagnosed on the autism spectrum. What made me love the story though was the love that other people had for him. They saw his genius, but they also saw that he could not take care of himself and so the entire mathematical community (which he created) came together to care for Paul and provide him with places where he would be happy. On top of that, Paul was an extremely generous man in that he never kept his knowledge to himself. He felt that the things he discovered deserved to be shared and collobarated with. What I think I love about this book is that although the story centers around math, it is not about math and that is what makes this such a successful biography.