Pythagoras and the Ratios
Julie Ellis, author
Julie Ellis is the author of many books for children, including What's Your Angle, Pythagoras, which she wrote as a way to show her daughter the uses of the Pythagorean Theorem. She lives in New Zealand.
Read more about Julie.
Phyllis Hornung, illustrator
Phyllis Hornung graduated from the Columbus College of Art & Design with a degree in illustration. She currently resides in Los Angeles where she spends most of her time drawing and painting. When she's not hard at work painting, she can be found browsing bookstores, reading, watching movies, or playing video games.
Read more about Phyllis.
In ancient Greece, a young musician makes exciting discoveries. The boy Pythagoras, brimming with curiosity, steps up to help when his friend Octavius might be unable to compete in an upcoming musical contest. The problem is an awful noise coming from Octavius's new pipes. With a stylus, clay tablet, measuring cord and his sharp wits, mathematician-to-be Pythagoras figures out the relationship between pipe length and resultant sound and helps fashion a perfectly pitched set of pipes for Octavius. The lyres of his friends Amara and Reyna provide a more difficult challenge, one that Pythagoras solves (in a race against the clock) with scales and tiny rocks. He does it so successfully that he and his friends form Pythagoras and the Ratios...the first rock group! The book's educational aspects are fascinating--both the text and the acrylic-and-colored-pencil illustrations bring these to life--but it's flat-footed on the story's narrative aspects, both visually and textually. Helpful addenda provide interesting information on Pythagoras and the application of his ratios to music.
School Library Journal
This picture-book introduction to ratio and proportion also explains the connection between math and music through a story featuring young Pythagoras and his family. Preoccupied by mathematical problems, the protagonist is constantly in trouble with his parents for neglecting his chores. When his cousin Octavius offends everyone's ears with the dissonant pipes he is practicing for an upcoming music contest, the young mathematician hears a challenge. He measures his own set of melodious pipes, calculating the ratio of each pipe to the shortest one, and discovers that Octavius's pipes need to be shortened. Later, he tunes other cousins' lyres by attaching rocks to the strings to adjust the tension. With all the instruments finally ready, the cousins play together at the contest. Unfinished chores and a broken set of pipes leave Pythagoras out of the performance, but the end result is the first "rock" group, which is a big success. The story is amusing and offers a glimpse into life in ancient Greece. Acrylic and colored pencil cartoons depict the clothing and lifestyle of the period in a pleasing palette. A historical note and an experiment which readers are challenged to use Pythagorean ratios to create a musical instrument with six glasses of water in varying amounts are appended.
ISBN: 978-1-60734-189-5 PDF
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Page count: 32
81/2 x 91/2