The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdős -- great kids' book


The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdős is a beautifully written, beautifully illustrated kids' biography of Paul Erdős, the fantastically prolific itinerant mathematician who published more papers than any other mathematician in history.

Boy is written by Deborah Heiligman, with illustrations by LeUyen Pham, and the pair really worked to weave numbers and mathematics through the text, with lively, fun illustrations of a young Erdős learning about negative numbers, becoming obsessed with prime numbers and leading his high-school chums on a mathematical tour of Budapest. They also go to great lengths to capture the upside and downside of Erdős's legendary eccentricity -- his inability to fend for himself and his helplessness when it came to everyday tasks like cooking and doing laundry; his amazing generosity and brilliance and empathy in his working and personal life.

Ultimately, this is a book that celebrates the idea of following your weird, wooing the muse of the odd, and playing to your strengths rather than agonizing over your weaknesses. It's an inspiring and sweet tale of one of humanity's greatest mathematicians, and a parable about the magic of passion and obsession.

My daughter, who is five, demanded that I read it to her three times in a row, over three bedtimes, which is always a vote of confidence.

The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos

The illustrations and layouts in Boy are fabulous, and Roaring Brook was kind enough to supply us with three spreads (click each to embiggen):