Each phone conversation with my grandmother ends with an “I love you” from me and an “I love you more” from her. This exchange reminds me of Sam McBratney’s Guess How Much I Love You, when Little Nutbrown Hare says “I love you right up to the moon” and Big Nutbrown Hare replies, “I love you right up to the moon–and back.”
My children and I’ve decided the moon isn’t far enough. We say: “I love you past the Milky Way.” And like McBratney’s book, we often go back and forth with:
“I love you to past the Milky Way and back.”
“I love you to infinity.”
“I love you to infinity plus infinity (or infinity times infinity)”
Love and infinity. Difficult to describe in words. This week’s picture book Infinity and Me does just that, and it does it beautifully.
Written by Kate Hosford, Infinity and me was published by Carolrhoda Books in 2012.
The “me” in Infinity and Me is a young girl named Uma. Uma wonders “How many stars were in the sky? A million? A billion? Maybe the number was as big as infinity?” However, she’s perplexed, “How could I even think about something as being as infinity?”
Overwhelmed, Uma asks friends and family how they imagine infinity. They imagine infinity is:
A number you can’t write down.
A symbol that looks like an eight that “fell over and took a nap”
Generations of families that could go on forever.
The process of cutting a noodle in half forever.
After listening to their ideas, Uma comes to a comforting understanding of infinity, an understanding inspired by love.
Gabi Swiatkowska’s illustrations are enchanting. Her unique images pull the reader into the curious world of infinity.
As a mathematical concept, infinity is a BIG idea (Sorry, not sorry, for the pun). Infinity is mysterious, paradoxical, and enigmatic. I highly recommend Eugenia Cheng’s Beyond Infinity to learn more about the bizarre world of infinity. For example, towards the beginning of her book, Cheng talks about the Infinity Hotel Paradox.
Infinity is a curious thing. Check out this awesome question from a preschooler below.
One surprising fact is that infinity isn’t a “number” in the sense that it isn’t a quantity you can place on the real number line. It doesn’t act like other real numbers. (See Cheng’s book for more on this).
We could tell this child, Infinity isn’t a number, it’s an idea (or something similar). But I’d rather respond like Uma and ask: “How do you imagine infinity?”
If the child says infinity is a number, I might ask:
Can you count to infinity? Can you write down the number infinity? What is infinity plus 1? What happens when you subtract 1 from infinity? How is infinity different from other numbers?
Infinity is different. And this picture book is a great way to talk about this difference with children.
This book provides a way for children to share how they imagine infinity. Here’s what my children shared:
- After hearing the title, Infinity and me. “That’s infinity plus one.” (Liam)
- “Infinity is like all the numbers. Infinity has all the numbers inside it.” (Liam)
- “Yeah, when you count to infinity, you never stop. You never ever, never ever, never, never stop.” (Siena)
After Uma’s grandmother mentions generations after generation of families are like infinity, Liam shared:
“You know what, there’s actually babies that are getting born right now. Can you see how many people in the world, Mom? “
An internet search led us here. Many interesting things to notice and wonder about populations/population growth.
At the end of the book, when Uma remarks: “I was starting to think that my questions about infinity might be endless.”
Siena asked: “Mama, what’s endless?”
To which my son shared this lovely connection to the word endless: “My teacher has a quote that a good book is endless.”
Infinity and me is a great book. A magical picture book that engages children in wondering about one curious beast, Infinity.
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Thanks and see you next Monday! #mathbookmagic