Saturday, April 27, 2019


Written by Seth Fishman

Illustrated by Isabel Greenberg

(Greenwillow Books, 2017)

Prepare to have your mind blown. Big numbers have a tendency to do just that. Sometimes they cause a panic. Like in math class. In that case, I draw a dollar sign in front of the number. Imagining that it’s money—your money—always makes it more palatable.

Or stars. Don’t big numbers become more fascinating when we imagine them as stars in the sky? The titular quantity (100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000) of stars is only the first number Fishman presents. Indeed most of the numbers in this book are gargantuan—the trees on Earth, all of the ants, the number of children (“or smallish snakes”) it would take to stretch from Earth to the moon. Some numbers don’t seem so large until one considers the context. Most alarming for me: Fishman tells us the average human consumes 70 pounds of bugs in a lifetime. (From now on, I shall be more selective about opening my mouth!)

A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars is absolutely mesmerizing. The facts are relatable to kids and Greenberg’s colorful illustrations depict diverse people. Even better, the book has one of the most useful Author’s Notes I’ve read. (What a great way to introduce kids to this oft-ignored component of a book!) In it, Fishman talks about how the numbers in the book are estimates and that the numbers will constantly change. (Mind boggling for kids!) “We can get very near the correct number on many things,” Fishman says, “near enough for us to understand how big they are—especially in comparison to the world around us.” The Note also breaks down place value to the billion trillions (or sextillions), enough to stretch everyone’s mind.

No comments:

Post a Comment