The Bulletin: Bean Thirteen

This creative mathematical concept book focuses on the dilemma landed by a pair of beetles when Flora, the less superstitious of the two, opts to gather thirteen rather than the typical twelve beans. (“I’ll pick one more,” said Flora. “DON’T DO IT!” shouted Ralph). When they try to divide the harvest into two piles, there is inevitably one bean left over; when they decide to invite April over and divide the beans into three piles, there is still one left over; same when they add Joe to the guest list (“Bean thirteen is trouble,” Ralph insists). In the end, six bugs sit down to eat, everyone takes what they need from the bean pile, and there is just the right amount of beans. The concept here is both original (you don’t often meet a superstitious insect) and amusing, especially the interplay between Flora and Ralph.

What is especially impressive is how fluidly the story shifts from the rigid structure of needing to count out the beans to the satisfying solution of allowing the guests to eat their fill, a solution that proves effective and pleasingly spontaneous. McElligott’s comic illustrative style uses dramatically thick outlines to define the fields of earth-toned colors. The usg themselves have few facial details, but their huge emotive eyes carry the weight of expression.

This will be lots of fun to share with groups of students just exploring multiples and those who simply like a good bug story. Be sure to have at least thirteen beans on hand to explore the concept. HM