Ah but we're missing the subtitle! The full title is: Mathematicians Are People, Too: Stories from the Lives of Great Mathematicians.My parents are in that group of retired folk that go into public schools and read stories to children - of course, it helps that mom was a teacher for something like 50 years, so this is old hat for her. Anyway this means that in the usual book closet with the paperbacks (which are not aesthetically pleasing enough to be seen on a bookshelf in the house - and there are multiple bookshelves out there already) there is now an area full of children's books, along with old books from my childhood. And when I saw this title - after having a good laugh - I thought I really had to read it.Short Version: A series of short biographies written as historical fiction with conversations designed to interest young readers. The stories generally describe the young mathematicians' relationship with parents, teachers, and their feelings about schoolwork - all things young students can completely relate to - then continues on with the mathematician's life and work. Some of the math may be over the heads of the very young, but the presentation is perfect for breaking kids in to the idea of math as an interesting puzzle to be solved and a field that is creative, rather than something that's intimidating. For older children this is a great way to teach primary and secondary sources by sending them to find out what original materials by these mathematicians they can discover, and compare this with the more fictionalized portions of the stories.Book contains a bibliography ("resource list") and a glossary of mathematical terms. (I'm now curious about Math Equals: Biographies of Women Mathematicians and related Activities and Women in Mathematics.)Book cover art (For those of you wondering "what's going on there?!"): That's Amalie Emmy Noether discussing mathematics with Max Noether, her father, when she was supposed to be dusting the dining room, as her mother had asked. (Note the unused dustrag on the desk next to Emmy.) That's her mother at the door, looking suitably annoyed. According to the story in her chapter, some of her father's colleagues were due for dinner. Her mother wasn't pleased, and felt her daughter shouldn't be studying the subject as "There's no place for a girl in mathematics." (p. 116) In the end her parents give in and allow her studies - which seemed inevitable since her father taught mathematics at the University of Erlangen in Germany.[Aside: I loved books containing biographies like this when I was little - particularly anything about George Washington Carver and botany. This might have had something to do with my childhood-fanatical-love of peanut butter. I vaguely remember learning about Carver through a book about Great Men in Science or something like that.]Chapter titles (with wikipedia links for the curious):Pyramids, Olives, and Donkeys - ThalesThe Teacher Who Paid His Student - PythagorasThe Man Who Concentrated Too Hard - ArchimedesA Woman of Courage - HypatiaMagician or Mathematician? - John NapierSeeing Isn't Believing - Galileo GalileiCount on Pascal - Blaise PascalThe Short Giant - Isaac NewtonThe Blind Man Who Could See - Leonhard EulerThe Professor Who Did Not Know - Joseph Louis LagrangeMathematics at Midnight - Sophie GermainThe Teacher Who Learned a Lesson - Carl Friedrich GaussDon't Let My Life Be Wasted! - Evariste GaloisLife on an Obstacle Course - Amalie Emmy NoetherNumbers Were His Greatest Treasure - Srinivasa RamanujanHistorical fiction is often used to make the lives of historical figures come to life for children. But at the same time it's often tricky to tell where the factual information comes from and how accurate it is when a book writes specifics of what people thought and felt. (It's rare to find historical fiction with citations in the text for instance. And sadly, bibliographies aren't always provided in such texts.) Example in chapter on Evariste Galois, p. 108, Galois returns home after being challenged to a duel, ponders the waste of "so much of his life":Galois sank into a worn chair and allowed painful memories to parade through his mind. None of it could be blamed on his parents. They were fine people, he reflected. His mother was a strong woman of character. She came from a family of judges and had taught Galois to hate injustice. Actually, she had taught him almost every subject until he turned twelve and started attending school. His father had contributed, too. He was headmaster of the boarding school in their village. Monsieur Galois' hobby was making up rhymes, mostly for fun. Evariste smiled in spite of himself as he remembered mimicking his father's verses....[Evariste's father had been mayor who opposed royalists] Galois hung his head and shuddered as he remembered that awful day. Overwhelmed by the attacks against him, his father had slipped into Paris and killed himself.Note that I'm not saying that this manner of telling the story is bad - in fact it's a great to use with older children to introduce the concept of primary and secondary sources, and to teach how to explore/research the documented history. It also makes me as an adult want to research more about Evariste in hopes that these stories are derived from his letters or journals (I'm unsure it either exist or are easily accessible, but I do want to read more.).[Aside: Evariste Galois' his last words to his brother were: Ne pleure pas, Alfred ! J'ai besoin de tout mon courage pour mourir à vingt ans ! (Don't cry, Alfred! I need all my courage to die at twenty.) - How can I resist hunting for a biography after knowing that?! Unfortunately running down a copy of few biographies that aren't solely about the mathematics may be difficult - must google a bit more...]More quotes, to give you an idea of the content:p 12, after Pythagorus etablished his school:"...Seeing Pythagoras must have been worth waiting for. He had a flair for the dramatic and dressed like a stage performer. While the students waited for Pythagoras's entrance, musicians played popular music. Finally the curtain was drawn back and Pythagoras, stately in his white robe, appeared befre the learners. His feet were strapped with gold sandals, and his head was crowned with a golden wreath. No wonder people suspected him of having gods for ancestors.Pythagoras worked most of his problems in the sand. His classroom always had a good supply of sand on the floor, and his attendants stood by with a selection of differently-colored sand in containers. When Pythagoras wanted to show one part of a geometric shape, for instance, the attendants would fill that part with blue or green sand so the students could see it more easily."p 30, Hypatia banters with her father:"Now don't criticize our lighthouse, Father. I'm honored to live near one of the Seven Wonders of the World.""You're right, Hypatia. But I can't help remembering how the city first became famous. I long for those days when instead of commercial goods, sailing ships brought the greatest minds in the world to Alexandria." he explained. "In those times the city built museums and libraries. Now, under the Romans. it builds manufacturing and trading centers."I'm curious as to what source inspired this and the rest of the opening "exercise and conversation with dad" scene. Also whether during her day the lighthouse was given the title of one of the Seven Wonders - the wikipedia page has Herodotus (484 – ca. 425 BCE) and/or Callimachus of Cyrene (ca. 305 – 240 BCE) as making early lists of the wonders but notes that their writings (on this subject) haven't survived. Hypatia's dates are (b. ca. AD 350–370, d. 415), again via wiki - and it's likely Alexandria would have had those texts. What I'm itching to know is whether Hypatia's writing mentions any of them.Meanwhile I'm glad she's in the book. I'm still digging around for a thorough biography of Hypatia, as the ones I find online are rather pricey. (I know - it's library time.)p 59-60, Blaise Pascal's sister, Gilberte, is going through Blaise's desk after his death, trying to figure out what to do with his possessions."It looks like each piece of paper has a separate idea on it - as if Blaise had recorded his thoughts whenever and wherever they came to him," Gilberte said to herself."Shall I get a waste can, ma'am?" the housekeeper asked. "Perhaps it would be easiest to just dump the whole drawer at once."..."Wait!" interrupted Gilberte. "In this box the pieces are sewn together with string, as if he wanted to publish them in this order. I'd better take a closer look at this!"After examining the fragments, Gilberte decided that Blaise's insighted should be preserved, so she organized them into a book called Pensees, "thoughts." This rich storehouse of ideas has been an important influence on theologians and philosophers since Pascal's day.Which you can read via Gutenberg here, or get the basic idea here on wikipedia.p. 93, Sophie Germain's parents have forbidden her from studying math because of "the popular notion that "brainwork" was not healthy - maybe even dangerous - for girls." So Sophie sneaks in her mathematics studies at night.On morning Sophie's parents discovered her asleep at her desk. Her slate was full of calculations, and the ink was frozen in its well."Sophie. Sophie, wake up!""Ummm...uh...Mother, Father?""Sophie, haven't we been clear about what we expect of you? Why must you disobey us?" her father implored."Oh, Father, I'm so sorry, but I just can't stop," Sophie cried. "These problems are so fascinating! When I work on them I feel like I'm really alive.""But Sophie," her mother said softly, "remember, you're a girl. It isn't good for you to fill your mind with numbers.""Mother, I promise I will stop if I become sick or tired. Can't you see that not being able to study this would make me really ill?"With that her parents gave up. Sophie was allowed to study to her heart's content. Fortunately, her father had an excellent library. As wealthy citizens, the Germain family knew many educated people in Paris and throughout France.