Noah’s ark was measured in cubits, while Captain Nemo traveled 20,000 leagues under the sea.
Diamonds are sold in carats, while Lizzy Bennet looks forward to balls taking place in a fortnight.
While the metric system is all tidy and orderly, the English system we still use is a colorful jumble of asymmetrical terms whose origins are unknown to most of us.
Ken Robbins sheds a wondrous light on all manner of these common and old-fashioned measurements in this fascinating book, accessible to mid-elementary children, yet highly interesting for adults as well.
Without getting bogged down in the details, Robbins gives us a short and sweet explanation, usually for just one measurement per page, accompanied by a helpful photo. Along with a photograph of an open hand, for example, he explains that a span is 8 inches, which comes from the average distance from the tip of our thumb to the end of our pinky finger.
Robbins also includes interesting offshoots of some measurements, such as explaining what we mean when we say we can’t fathom something, as he discusses what a fathom is, that will make the lights turn on for you and your kids. The ancient origins of these terms are so intriguing!
Eye-catching photography, plenty of white space in the layouts which creates an inviting look to this mathematical subject, a great variety of measuring terms, and excellent writing which never talks down — this is a gem of a book on an unusual topic.