Philosophy and Fun of Algebra by Mary Everest Boole

Because Philosophy and Fun of Algebra is a non-fiction work, I decided to see what information I could obtain on the author. Here are a couple of fun facts:

  • Her uncle, Colonel Sir George Everest, was the cartographer who mapped his namesake mountain.
  • Her husband, George Boole, developed Boolean algebra which has become a foundational element of modern computing.
  • She worked and taught at Queens College.
  • Mary Everest Boole had quite the background by the time she began writing books.

Boole’s husband influenced her thinking and it appears that she turned away from the teaching of her childhood. I spent a few moments here exploring her biography and was unable to determine whether or not her father was a true believer. Either way, by the time that she died Mary Everest Boole had rejected any belief in the God of the Bible. This is evident from her writing in the Philosophy and Fun of Algebra.

The positive aspect of the book is simple and straight forward. Yeah, there is only one good part to this short book “children’s” book. She argues strongly for clear logical thinking skills. She does not confine algebra to a branch of math, but to a way of life. According to Boole, algebra requires that one recognize ones ignorance. Until one realizes that they are ignorant and then factor that ignorance into the equation, they can never solve any problem with certainty. The first several chapters efficiently explain logical thinking and reasoning. As this capability has been nearly lost by most of our society… it makes for a good review.

The negative aspect of this book is also simple and straight forward. Boole has rejected the God of the Bible. Her god is one of reason and logic. Therefore, I find it ironic that she uses the Bible as her primary source of examples of good logic and algebraic thinking. If she actually read the Bible at face value, she wouldn’t have sounded so ridiculous. In her rationalism and rejection of God, she reinterprets all of the spiritual aspects of the Bible and uses her reinterpretation as the “facts” in her algebraic equation. Then she applies algebraic thinking to the Scripture and ends up with concepts and ideas that are completely contrary to the text. When Bible teaches in Exodus 20 that God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses, Boole reads this and arrives at a quite different destination. Apparently, Moses recognized the basis of algebraic thinking and determined that everyone in his country should think in the same manner as he did or leave. Moses set up a system based on the Ten Commandments to enable simple management.

If you are going to teach logic, at least use examples that don’t require massive reinterpretations before they are useable. It’s not logical to do otherwise. Actually, this could lead to an intriguing conversation about faith and reason applied to the Bible, but I will leave that for another day. Suffice it to say, God did not intend for the Bible to conform to man’s reasoning. If the Bible conformed to man’s reasoning then man would not need faith; and if man could reason and understand God, then God would be equal to man.

I recommend this book to adults as a refresher on logic. It might assist a parent attempting to assist their child with critical thinking skills, but I wouldn’t recommend this book for children. Boole attempts to undermine Scripture too much for me to be comfortable with that.

Peter Pan and the Shadowthieves By Dave Barry

Sequel to Peter Pan and the Starcatchers”, which was itself a prequel to James Barrie’s “Peter Pan” (conveniently for me, both authors have the same first four letters in their names, so it was easy to find all the books in the kids library, being in one place and all that). So does that make it a SePrequel or a prequelsequel? I don’t know, but it is a good book, and pretty much even with its predecessor in quality. An accomplishment in an of itself, since the first book was one running joke after another, and “Peter Pan and the Shadowthieves” is one streaming mystery after another.

Plot: The books opens essentially where it left off in the last one, maybe a few months ahead, and Peter clearly hasn’t gotten the entire leadership thing yet. His friends have to help him out of a major scrape, with our mermaids coming back to help out in exchange for a chance to flirt with Peter, and everyone is too busy to notice how many bad people have congregated on the island all at once (and one of them isn’t even a people). The escaped pirates from the first book return, the marooned pirates decide to attack, and a mysterious creature with unknown powers wants the box of starstuff. The other bad guy problems, while not resolved right away, take a back seat to the threat posed by the Shadowthief. Since the stardust isn’t there, the creature and some of the pirates leave to find it, muttering threats against Molly as they go. The lost boys, therefore, are left to deal with part of the pirate problem, so Peter can help Molly protect the starstuff. Molly, however, is back in London, and doesn’t know what is coming; neither does her father, who is busy trying to return the stardust. The Others have a lot of henchmen involved this time, and it is going to take everyone’s detective skills to figure out what they are up to. Tinkerbell (a birdgirl, as she prefers to be called), gets involved , trying to protect Peter in a new kind of jungle, even getting a mini adventure of her own among the birds (that is really quite funny). A lot more action than the first book, and more of a mystery-element to the plot, but sprinkled with enough jokes to keep the tension from going anywhere high.

Positives: Too many to mention, but here are my favorites. Peter becomes more of a real leader (saving people not just when it is easy or convenient, helping his boys and trying to include other people in his fun), though the part when Peter returns to London is the best. He has a lot of struggles, but shows plenty of courage and determination (like a hero should). Molly is equally intelligent, though not always wise, and some of the incidences she helps out with are pretty funny. My favorite character in this book, though, would be George. Its about time someone came up with a compensation to the ladies-all-love-Peter subplot; thank you, Dave Barry! The entire book, actually, I found quite funny (though I resent the fact that certain bad guys are still at large, and no prequelsequelsequel)!

Negatives: Captain Nezzera and his wooden nose are a creepy pair for the opening chapters. Once he is made into more of a comedic relief he’s tolerable, but in the beginning he is no fun at all to read about (I have never enjoyed the oh-by-the-way-this-is-why-we-call-them-bad-guys part of books). Also, there are alot of smart animals in the end action scenes (my personal pet peeve, smart talking animals. Thankfully, the talking was minimized, but still, what’s up with the animals? Porpoises are bad enough.). The Shadowthief’s effect on people is described as zombie like, and the children’s bad behavior is not always rebuked.

In Essence: Can I just say, George is great? Really, he’s kind, and considerate, and a gentleman, and scholarly in a charmingly geeky way (okay, irresponsible; not telling his parents anything that has happened is unwise. Aside from that character flaw, he’s great counterbalance for the mermaids), and its hilarious to see him and Peter silently agree that they will never be friends. I like mysteries, so this storyline appealed to me,and I highly recomend it (though not as a realy little kidsy book, despite being in the children’ssection).

Peter Pan and the Star Catchers By Dave Barry

I’ve been a cautious fan of Dave Barry’s for years (a fan because he’s hilarious when he tries to be; cautious, because he is prone to being lazy and uses crude/foul language as a substitute for comedy. A common malady among comedians these days), so the author’s name alone peaked my interest in this book. Peter Pan is one of my favorite childhood stories, and I didn’t want that memory tarnished by truckloads of bad language. Thankfully, Mr. Barry takes Mr. Barrie’s ideas and uses his most industriously clean and funny efforts in years to tell the story of , basically, “what happened before Peter Pan learned to fly?”

Plot: An orphan named Peter is taken from a cruel boys home, along with a group of boys his age (he always claims to be one year older than the oldest), and put on a ship. Also on board the ship is a girl named Molly, who happens to have a careless governess, a fondness for hungry waifs (she shares her food with the boys), and a special secret. Molly’s father is on the ship ahead of them, a certain pirate is en route to get between Molly and her father, and Peter is too curious about what they are fussing over to stay in the dark very long. On board one of the three ships is a box of stardust, with special abilities in itself and those it touches, and Molly is a Starcatcher, whose kind is trying to protect it from the dark Others. This is only the mid beginning, and a lot more upsets and revelations will ensue before the end, that had me stuck to my seat for the entire ride.

Negatives: most of the violence, if not all, in this book is played for laughs, so a literal list of the violent content will not be following. Most of the time, any “hurt”s are lost in the laughter. There are some tense/scary parts for younger kids, such as when the mermaids fight the pirates and blood is described as clouding the water, and the orphans are given worms to eat and the like. The most objectionable parts, for me, were when the mermaids are formed (using stardust), and they are described a lot like evolving, even referring to the box of stardust as “the creator.” There are some inappropriate moments, with subtle references to extramarital relations, and the mermaids are not described per se, but the fact that they have no clothes above the waist is left implied if unsaid. Also, “The Ladies”, are sails that look like a corset top, flying above the pirate deck.

Postives: This book has so many good points, I can’t begin to touch on them all, but my favorite parts were definitely the outsmart-the-bad-guy sections. Peter has to learn to be a real leader, going to find food for the hungry boys and finding ways to hide those forays from the pirates. And saving the mermaids, and Molly, from the Pirates takes a very long time but there were lots of clever bits there. When Peter has to save the boys from the crocodile, the results are rather humorous. Also, the Indians are not omnipotently wise, and actually make a mistake or two, which was nice: I get SO tired of the noble savage bit, it was great to see them acting like real people (intelligent, useful people, but still people, not Greek gods). There are moments of supremely humorous dialogue, which alleviate alot of the tension. All of the (as yet unnamed) Lost Boys have personalities, and they cooperate a lot like a family of boys would be expected to; with plenty of infighting and unified action.

In Essence: I love Peter! He’s silly and sweet and funny and totally boyish, without being the least bit an annoying brat. I understand what the ladies see in him, in this one, and its also easy to understand why he can’t see anything much in them. Also, the abundance of references to fairy tale lore is really funny (Tinkerbell, for instance, is a fairy created from a green and yellow bird that was overexposed to starstuff.) This book grabs you right at the start and doesn’t let go until the end (when I promptly reached for the sequel).

Here’s another review of Peter and the Star Catchers.

Peter Pan By James M. Barrie

This book has been made into so many plays, movies, cartoons, and spin-off pre/sequels that its plot almost needs no introduction. I personally picked up the book because I had seen the movies, and try to read the books behind the films I watch whenever possible. Preferably before seeing the movie; as best I can recall, I saw two cartoons, one play, and four movie versions before realizing it was a book in the first place. It should be noted that I enjoyed every single version of the story, except the book, which you might as well know right now was a big disappointment to me. The story of a eternally youthful boy and his fairy friends who can fly is a really fun one, and since reading the book I have seen/heard/read other incarnations of the story that show how (forgive the expression), totally cool it can be. The book is different from the many multi-media incarnations, so I will summarize the plot though, I suspect, most of the details are not necessary. Actually, I wonder how many of the people who visit this site have ever heard of Peter Pan, and where from. A show of hands in the commentary section would be interesting.

Plot: A perpetually young boy named Peter Pan, who dresses in green leafy-ish clothing, spies on a group of children in a London home, because the oldest girl tells good stories. When said girl is considered old enough for her own room by her parents, the children (and Peter Pan) consider this a calamity, and they all go with Peter to Never Land. There they have lots of adventures centering around the fairies (of whom Tinker Bell, who Peter ignores mostly, is in love with Peter), the Indians (of whom Tiger Lily, who Peter ignores mostly, is in love with Peter), the pirates (who want to kill Peter Pan, especially Captain Hook, who really wants to kill Peter Pan), the mermaids (all of whom are in love with Peter Pan but whom he mostly ignores), the crocodile (who wants to eat everybody in general but Captain Hook in particular, because he already got a taste from Hook’s hand that Peter fed him [ergo the hook]), the Lost Boys (a group of boys also on the island and under Peter’s leadership). and the children (of whom Wendy, the oldest girl, is mostly ignored by Peter but loves him just like every other female on the island). Along the way… Hook kills crew members at random; Peter Pan takes credit for every heroic action by any of the secondary good characters by declaring “oh the cleverness of me” at the end and beginning and middle and mid-middle and sort of middle of every adventure; every female on the island except possibly a few mermaids is held hostage at one point or another, all attempts to rescue them being sabotaged by the other females; Peter Pan declares “oh the cleverness of me” every time he forgets something, to drive home the point that his memory is short; the author narrates about children being young and heartless as their motivating factor for every decision; Peter Pan says “oh the cleverness of me” at the end of every conversation; the crocodile chases everybody; the author narrates that children are young and heartless; and, Peter tries to have other people say “oh the cleverness of you” every time he utters a sentence, thankfully to no avail.

SPIOILERS: In the end, all the boys of Never Land go back to the way they were before, except with parents now in some cases, and all the girls go back to the way they were before, except more jealous of Peter’s affections. The children from London are back to normal too, except Wendy; she is in love with Peter, and gives him her first kiss (for no good reason except she wants him to remember to come back to her), just before he forgets her. Peter Pan comes back to Wendy’s house every twenty years to take her daughter, and then her granddaughter, and so on and so forth, with him to Never Land, and the process repeats itself. The last sentence in the book? “And so it will always be, as long as children are young and heartless.”

My overall opinion of this book is very low, despite my enjoyment of the other, multi-media affairs it inspired. I can see why kids would enjoy the idea of Peter Pan (flying around, never having to get old, not having any responsibilities; this part, as a kid myself when I read the book, I might have found intriguing), but the execution is so dark that I couldn’t enjoy the fun parts. “Peter Pan” doesn’t read like a children’s book; between being told how heartless the kiddies are, and watching every female under the age of thirty fall madly in love with Peter Pan, the whole story gets simultaneously old and depressing by about chapter three. The violent content is disproportionately high, and to detail all the blood/violent/torture/tense scenes would take almost a book in itself (HINT: the phrase “the Disney version” originated with this movie). Also, all of the female characters are equipped with half a brain each; to his credit, James Barrie is very fair, and gives the other halves to the boys. Apparently, these brains were stolen from the white adults in the story (none of whom do anything remotely intelligent, ever), though the Indians are shown to be very clever. Peter Pan himself is clever whenever he does something without saying “oh the cleverness of me” within a paragraph of the act, which is about twice in all of 380 pages. Not a recommended read, except to say you read it.