Seven Golden Rings is a tale of longing, of using your cleverness for survival, a tale where your journey to fulfill your dream ends up bringing you something unexpected.
Long ago there lived a kind rajah who ruled over vast lands.
He loved music, and gathered the finest players and singers to
perform in his court. But the rajah had no interest in planning or
calculating, and did not manage his kingdom’s food stores an
accounts. And so his people suffered.
Bhagat, a boy in the kingdom, dreams of singing for the kind, but managerially-incompetent, rajah. He and his mother, like many in the kingdom, are poor and hungry, and when the rajah puts out a call for the finest entertainers throughout the land, Bhagat jumps at the chance. His mother gives him the last of their money in the form of one rupee and seven gold rings, the last of her wedding necklace (talk about tugging at heart strings!), to finance his journey and fulfill his dream.
Bhagat travels to the city where the rajah lives, and then waits to perform for days. He’s forced to divide the gold chain in very creative and frugal ways to pay for his stay at an inn. (The phrase “necessity is the mother of invention” comes to mind.)
Bhagat gets his chance to perform for the rajah, with results that are not, at least initially, what he wants, but as it turns out, is exactly what he needs. And in the end, the kingdom reflects the outcome.
The story reads like an ancient but relevant and poignant folktale, and the math behind Bhagat’s financing method is nothing short of a brilliant example of binary math, the logic used by computers. The back matter explains how it works in a straightforward way.
But the math isn’t the heart of the story, it’s just a fabulous appendage. The heart is found in this young man’s attempt to achieve his dream, his mother’s support of that dream, and the surprising support from another wonderful character, the innkeeper’s wife, who sees more in Bhagat than just his voice.
The vibrant illustrations, created by Archana Sreenivasan, depict a struggling kingdom at the beginning and a thriving one at the end, reflecting the change in Bhagat’s and his mother’s status as well. She also does a great job of depicting characters’ wealth or social status through the clothing and jewelry they wear.
And the math? Well, all I can say is that the connection between the tale and the math behind it is nothing short of brilliant! Kudos to Rajani for combining magnanimity, music, and math.
Learn how to think in binary
Use the book’s activity guide that includes a coloring and ring activity as well as elements of social and emotional learning, math, and social studies and geography.
Learn more about the history of rajahs
Title: Seven Golden Rings: A Tale of Music and Math
Author: Rajani LaRocca
Illustrator: Archana Sreenivasan
Publisher: Lee & Low 2020
Ages: 1st-4th grade
Themes: following your dream, math, music
For more perfect picture book recommendations, please visit Susanna Hill’s website.