Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci – Joseph D’agnese (illustrated by John O’Brien) – 2010, Henry Holt and Company, LLC, New York
Wild Fibonacci: Nature’s Secret Code Revealed – Joy N. Hulme (illustrated by Carol Schwartz) – 2005, Tricycle Press, Berkeley
All things Fibonacci have been making the rounds on the Internet as of late, and I think it’s wonderful that people who weren’t previously aware of what the Fibonacci sequence is and how it relates to the natural world are learning about it. Who would have thought that mathematics was so cool?
A couple of excellent books for children that introduce the Fibonacci sequence are Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci and Wild Fibonacci: Nature’s Secret Code Revealed. Blockhead tells the life of Fibonacci, a daydreaming boy from the medieval city of Pisa, who, as an adult, travelled the world as a merchant and used his passion for numbers to create his famous sequence. The book takes the few facts that we know of Fibonacci’s biography and gives them a slightly fanciful spin, making the story a little more interesting than stuffy encyclopedia entries. The first-person voice is easy for the reader to identify with; when young Fibonacci is criticized by his teacher for being a “blockhead…an absent-minded, lazy dreamer” you can sympathize with the boy’s pain, and the distant historical figure becomes quite real. John O’Brien’s illustrations are excellent, offering tribute to medieval art styles, and dropping great clues about how the Fibonacci sequence be used in art (hint: there are a lot of spirals and curves in the drawings. Search them out).
Wild Fibonacci starts off with a “Dear Reader” entry that introduces Fibonacci’s number code and makes a firm connection between the numbers and how nature has used patterns of spirals and curves in the “lifesaving features of many animals.” A graph illustrating how to plot an equiangular spiral using the Fibonacci sequence follows, paving way for the sumptious illustrations of wild animals sporting curves and spirals: tusks, teeth, horns, shells, talons, beaks. Of course, the groups of animals on each page number properly in the sequence, and for good measure, author Joy N. Hulme writes the whole thing in rhyming poetry. (It’s a feat-and-a-half, truly! I love it!). Taken together, both books might be a great way to make math more interesting to children (and those of us adults) who usually aren’t into numbers. Knowing how the Fibonacci sequence works opens up a whole new and fascinating way of looking at the patterns in the world…I know I will never look at a pinecone or a daisy again without thinking of the spiral patterns on them.
For more Fibonacci fun, check out this great video!
Tagged: Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci, book review, Carol Schwartz, children's books, children's nonfiction books, Fibonacci, Fibonacci sequence, John O'Brien, Joseph D'agnese, Joy N. Hulme, mathematics, patterns in nature, teaching mathematics to children, Wild Fibonacci: Nature's Secret Code Revealed