This short book of only 69 pages starts out with a great premise: to make math interesting and relevant to children. The author tries to use a novel approach by having the young and very bored protagonist adaptively named X fall into a circle instead of a rabbit hole, or a well on his quest to a new adventure. Along the way he meets Pythagoras, Eratosthenes and Hypatia among other important historical figures. The illustrations by David Conde are at the same time whimsical and somewhat frightening. The protagonist should be frighten because if he looses interest in math, there is a eraser shaped like a worm who will wipe out the mathematical knowledge if he so wishes. Of course, the losses would be tremendous for all.
The young protagonist finally wakes up in class and is a changed student as his new interest in math and its relevance. What else can a teacher want? However, does the writer really accomplish her goal of a changed student? The novel approach to math is a good idea indeed and some of the mathematical problems are well thought out and interesting. However, our young protagonist feels physically and mentally exhausted during his trip, and he complains of nausea and headaches as he made to think about some mathematical equations.
He also seems to be threatened during his adventure until he wakes up in a predictable fashion and discovers that it was all a dream or nightmare, and the math knowledge has not been lost by his stupidity after all.
While the exercise is ultimately worth it, our young protagonist does not seem to be a very happy learner during his so-called adventure, but more like a “torture”. The author should be commended for trying this subject, but might be a might overwhelming for some young readers. However, the activities at the end of the book are a great didactic tool and are very well thought out. Some of the concepts presented throughout the book like multiplication, division and prime numbers are very well presented and a good review for even older readers.