The Shape of Things

The Wonderful World Of Genie Geometry Story Book - Carlos Fuentes, Carl Hiaasen

Admit it, you thought math was boring in school, didn't you?


Here to prove it doesn't have to be that way is Carl Lupton, with a multimodal story- and work-book that engagingly presents basic geometry ideas to an elementary school audience.


It's a clever book on many levels. First, the story itself: Genie Geometry tells her family's story, which quite literally is about how geometry concepts relate to one another. There's Grandpa Pythagoras, Grandma Trulia Right Angle, Great Uncle Linus and Great Grandpa Segy, and a family tree of triangles right, isosceles, and equilateral. The puns in the names are great fun for the adult reader and help make the characters memorable, along with the delightfully quirky illustrations by Philip Godenschwager.


Second is the format. Lupton has arranged the book to read in both directions. Read it from the front and you get Genie's story itself, but if you flip the book over, you get prompts to draw the characters doing various things--and thus practice drawing the shapes themselves. In the middle is a useful glossary, containing not only mathematical terms, but also definitions of words that crop in the story, like "confidence" and "reservation," which might be new to some kids. In this way, Lupton engages the students on many levels at once. There's math, drawing, and vocabulary development all embedded in one entertaining story.


As you might imagine, packing all of this into under 80 pages is a challenge. Lupton tells Genie's story in one fairly breathless take that fills each page to the margin. Elementary readers might find it difficult to read this for themselves, but it's clear that the intention is for a classroom teacher to read this aloud. Given more space, the notes to the teachers and notes to the students could be separated out more clearly to make it easier for the reader to pause at the appropriate spots.


A useful, and entertaining, addition to the classroom or the homeschool curriculum.