‘When single mum Ruth has a brief fling with Rob, she's mortified to discover that he lied to her. He lied to her, because he's married. Worse still, he's the husband of Janine, head of the PTA at the primary school where Ruth works as secretary, and when the truth of their fling is discovered, Ruth suddenly has a lot of enemies at the school gates.’Read More
Recently, I was asked to name three books that had a big influence on me. I couldn’t remember the title of one of them at the time but, luckily, my Mum came to the rescue and found this copy second hand, bound inside a volume with 2 other books. It’s called Man Must Measure – The Wonderful World of Mathematics by Lancelot Hogben, better known for Mathematics for the Million, and was published in 1955 by Rathbone Books.
I credit this book not only with helping me understand the maths I was learning at school but also with kindling a fascination for how ancient civilisations were able to learn and discover and invent as much as they did without the libraries and schools and technology that I took for granted as a child. It made me see those people as so much more than the creators of the myths and legends that I already loved reading about.
The story moves through history and begins with earliest man and woman’s need to use the stars as a map and making marks to record the passing of time so they could forage and hunt and, in time, farm and trade. It then travels through ancient Egypt, Bablyon and Assyria and so on until it reaches ‘The Industrial World’. I can’t believe that today’s children wouldn’t love this book too, certainly mine do.
Maths plays the main character in the story of how man has learnt to understand the world and create many of the things that we take for granted today. For example, Hogben asks how the Egyptians were able to make the base of a pyramid an accurate square, vital to creating the shape of the whole building. He shows one way to make a right angle on the ground using pegs and string to make arcs, using a plumb line to make right angles in the air and how they made set squares by working out how to create a right angled triangle. It’s a very clever and fun way of teaching maths using history and problem solving and clearly illustrates why an understanding of these, sometimes dry, maths rules are so important.
If you know children who love maths or, perhaps especially, if you know children who hate maths this could be the book that fires their imagination. Keep a look out for any second hand copies you can find.
The Encyclopaedia Britannica online describes Lancelot Hogben as a zoologist, geneticist, medical statistician, and linguist, known especially for his many contributions to the study of social biology. He was more than that, jailed as a conscientious objector during WWI he was a staunch critic of eugenics and wrote of his ‘resistance to the racist policies of (pre-Apartheid) South Africa. If anyone knows of good biography of Hogben, I’d like to read it!
I saw a question bouncing around online recently asking readers for the most popular book they’d never read. It got me thinking about all the books I’ve loved that I would never have found on my own.
One of my greatest pleasures is sinking into something really special that I hadn’t been expecting so here are a few of those unexpected favourites that I needed a little nudge to discover.Read More
My strongest memory of the 1976 heatwave is of the curious earthquake-like cracks that scarred our back garden. My family had moved back from Germany to a small village in Sussex that summer and my brother and I were amazed to find huge fissures across the lawn where the clay soil had dried and shrunk. I would lie on my stomach and look into the earth, wondering how much deeper and wider the cracks would get and what treasure might be revealed.
A Little Bird Told Me is partly set in 1976 because that summer was so remarkable and memorable for me.Read More
Now that the proofs for A Little Bird Told Me have been printed I can breathe a sigh of relief that there’s no more editing for me – at least for the time being.
When I started sending my manuscript out, I heard so many anecdotes about successful authors who had received rejection after rejection but battled on to have their book published and loved by many readers. Ah, I used to think, but did they keep sending out the exact same manuscript or did they keep revising and polishing? Where does dogged self-belief and resilience need to give away to responding to feedback and striving for improvement?Read More