Thursday, 24 September 2015

Snowflake, Seashell, Star. By Alex Bellos with Edmund Harriss. Review.


Snowflake, Seashell, Star

Colouring Adventures in Numberland

By Alex Bellos with Edmund Harriss

Canongate, Sept 2015

Trade paperback: £12.99

ISBN 978 1 78211 788 9



Star rating: ****



I’m telling you upfront that I’m not the greatest fan of the difficult-to-ignore colouring-books-for grown-ups phenomenon. I do get it – mindful relaxation, decision making without consequences (pencils or markers?/what colour next?). I am glad that talented artists have an opportunity for publishing success – colouring book specialist is a whole new creative field. But, my personal reaction is that I’d rather be crocheting a scarf or jumper – just as relaxing and something useful produced. Until now.


Today I am featuring a themed colouring book that I can really get excited about. I am so enthusiastic about it that I am blogging about it on its publication date!


Snowflake, Seashell, Star is an interactive mathematical colouring book. No – don’t shy away. This is big fun. Fun and awe. It is a collaboration between Alex Bellos, who writes about popular mathematics (he has a Guardian maths/puzzle column and has written two bestselling books, Alex’s Adventures in Numberland and Alex Through the Looking-Glass) and Edmund Harriss, a well-known mathematical artist.


The book is divided into two sections, with a total of 80 images. Upfront is the colouring section featuring exquisite patterns from nature, optical illusions, tessellating shapes (they interlock, as in the art of M.C. Escher). Just looking at these pages is a treat – they have a life all their own, even before colour is applied. Part two of the book is interactive. Here you will find sophisticated connect-the-dots pages and directed colouring exercises (follow the sequence to get an impressive result). Wish my maths workbooks had been like this! 


Back-of-book is the reveal. It gives capsule descriptions of the principles featured in the colouring pages of the book, explaining  their mathematical significance in friendly and accessible jargon.

So – congrats to Alex Bellos and Edmund Harriss for producing a colouring book with a sharp new angle.
Tessellating fish on the back cover.
BTW, if you live in the States, this title has a different title - and cover (see above): Patterns of the Universe. Cosmic!