Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci by Joseph D’Agnese

I first heard about Blockhead from the manager of the children’s section at my local independent bookstore: “There’s another Fibonacci book coming out this spring, too.” I was worried for a tiny little minute that someone else had had the same idea I had. Would there be enough room in the market for two Fibonacci books? I was relieved when my internet search revealed that the book in question was very different. It was an illustrated biography for a slightly older audience. I was really curious and interested.

About the same time I was finding out about Blockhead, its author was learning about my book. We got in touch and, in the way things often go in this business, I now consider Joseph D’Agnese a friend. We sent each other copies of our books; he hosted me on his blog during my launch week; and I am returning the favor.

I have one advantage over him in my part of this virtual tour: I got to read his book before this post. So, instead of only an interview, I can offer my informed opinion. I enjoyed this book a lot and I think it has serious kid appeal. Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci is an interesting hybrid between picture book biography and fable. D’Agnese, a freelance writer who used to edit a math magazine for kids, wanted to write about Fibonacci and the relationship between Fibonacci numbers and nature. The problem was there is no evidence that Fibonacci knew about this connection. So D’Agnese imagined a scenario in which Fibonacci does see the connection. In D’Agnese’s story, the young Fibonacci faces pressure from his schoolmaster and his father who aren’t sure he is applying himself to his lessons with sufficient diligence. What kid can’t relate to that?

It may be that I have more appreciation for D’Agnese’s text than the average reader; I know intimately the potential pitfalls involved in writing about: a) someone who lived so long ago (when names were not like our names) and b) a sequence that solved a number problem with more than a few convoluted conditions. I am referring here to the Rabbit Problem. Take my word for it, D’Agnese handles these problems with ease. Blockhead is a delightful tale about an important mathematician, his world travels, and his breakthrough ideas.

Come back tomorrow for the interview.

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