From Scientific American
An attempt to help children conceptualize the immensity of numbers is aided immeasurably by the artist's jovial, detailed, whimsical illustrations. Marvelosissimo the Mathematical Magician demonstrates the meaning of a million by showing his four young friends (plus two cats, a dog, and a unicorn) that it would take twenty-three days to even count to a million and that a goldfish bowl large enough to hold a million goldfish could hold a whale. Seven pages are printed with tiny white stars on a grid pattern against a blue sky -- adding up to only one hundred thousand stars! And after that, a billion and a trillion are discussed, all with equally or even more outstanding examples; a trillion children standing on each other's shoulders would almost reach to the rings of Saturn. The author concludes with several pages of the mathematical calculations which support his examples, very clearly and humorously explained. An unusual idea, smoothly and amusingly presented.
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Aside from being great fun, and it is, this book leads the viewer to conceptualize what at first seems inconceivable, no mean feat. A jubilant, original picture book. -- Booklist, June 15, 1985
Children are often intrigued by or confused about (sometimes both) very large numbers. Here Schwartz uses concepts that are simple to help readers conceptualize astronomical numbers like a million, billion, and trillion.
Examples: If a million children climbed on each other's shoulders, they would reach higher into the sky than airplanes can fly; if a billion of them made a human tower, it would reach past the moon. Some of the concepts can best be understood if there is previous knowledge (like the distance to the moon) but this is on the whole a successful effort. Extensive notes in small print seem addressed to adults. Kellogg's bouncy, vibrant pictures, however, are colorful and funny and indubitably addressed to children. -- Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, July-August 1985
Steven Kellogg['s] elements are play, story, detail, and exaggeration. These exuberant gifts give an electrical charge to David M. Schwartz's examination of the other end of the counting spectrum, the realm of huge numbers explored in How Much Is a Million? (Lothrop). Kellogg has created a whole adventure in pictures which faithfully interpret while expanding the text. Take a look at Marvelosissimo the Mathematical Magician starting his young friends on the wildly improbable task of counting to one trillion, a task which is to take two hundred thousand years. The dismal outcome is foreseen in the lower frame of the picture. All of the cast of characters in the upper frame will be long dead, from the unicorn, Moonbeam, to the Magician him self, not to mention Robert, Grace, Elena, and Sandro. Their gravestones stand in a row, inscribed with their names and images and decorated by the stars which are a continuing motif throughout the book. The tree is gone; night has fallen. So preposterous, but not sad; it is funny and also awesome. Furthermore it is true, as Schwartz's careful calculations at the end of the book demonstrate. Games and nonsense are frequently the delight of mathematicians, their proofs incontrovertible. Enjoy the heavy pyramid of calendar boxes, the wizard's pointed hat and long white beard, Sandro's body extruding from the frame of the upper picture. The art is solid, busy, loaded with narrative. Feel the serenity of the ages in the night scene below. Kellogg's game-playing, his affection, his gusto burst out of this page and send the viewer's imagination soaring. -- Horn Book, May/June 1988
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