Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Monday, March 28, 2016

FROM THE BACKLIST: The Librarian Who Measured the Earth by Kathryn Lasky

The Librarian Who Measured the Earth
Written by Kathryn Lasky; Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes
Little, Brown and Company. 1994
ISBN: 0316515264
I am on a crusade to get some really terrific and often overlooked informational picture books into the hands of teachers and parents. These books, read aloud to middle and high school students, could be a gateway for important conversations and growth. 
All ages

More than two thousand years ago, Eratosthenes (AIR-uh-TOS-thuh-neez) lived in the great city of Alexandria. Though he wrote many, many books on a wide range of topics, Eratosthenes is known for his accomplishment of measuring the circumference of the earth. Using camels and plumb lines, he used the angle of shadows to come up with his number that was off by only 200 miles. Quite an amazing achievement without the help of modern technology. 

In her author’s note, Lasky explains that though Eratosthenes gave us many volumes of work, he left behind no personal documents, no diaries, no birth records. Consequently, this spirited narrative is a blend of speculation on what Eratosthenes might have been like growing up, the questions he could have asked, mixed with details about life in Greece at that time.

Some of the questions Lasky imagines: 
How far away is the sun?
Where does the wind come from?
How much of earth is land?
How high is the highest mountain?
How big around was earth?

The story is enhanced by the illustrations, rendered in acrylics, by Kevin Hawkes. Hawkes double page paintings appropriately add a twist of humor to Lasky’s offering of life in Ancient Greece.

Who was Eratosthenes? He was born in 276 BC in Cyrene, a Greek city on the coast of Africa in the country that is now called Libya. He was a man of learning, a lover of lists, was particularly drawn to mathematics and geography. Eratosthenes worked as chief librarian at the Library of Alexandria; his employer was King Ptolemy. 

Back matter includes an afterword, bibliographies both from Lasky and Hawkes.

The Librarian Who Measured the Earth is a book to share with students to show the amazing accomplishments that are waiting to be discovered, and questions waiting to be answered by those possessing a curious mind. A perfect companion for those interested in learning more about mathematicians, scientists, and Ancient Greece.

I borrowed this book from my local public library.

1 comment:

  1. This looks like a good read. When I taught high school American history, I used to read The Butter Battle Book by Dr. Seuss to my students as the opening to our unit on the Cold War. This tale made ideological conflict a little more concrete.