Book Review: Bracelets for Bina’s Brothers – a glorious mix of story, siblings, and maths

By Rajani LaRocca, illustrated by Chaaya Prabhat, Charlesbridge, 2021

We loved Rajani LaRocca’s earlier ‘story-telling math’ book, Seven Golden Rings (reviewed here), so were excited to see that she had another book coming out. This book has been equally popular in our house. It’s quite different, it’s a modern-set story of family, and the maths in the book is simpler – an introduction to repeating patterns rather than binary counting –  but both the 3 year old and the 7 year old have been thoroughly absorbed.

It’s simple on the surface, but a book that packs a lot in. My kids love the dynamic between Bina and her brothers – the familiar mixture of affection and irritation. My daughter always giggles at the end when ‘Nobody called her “Giggles”, “Piggles”, or “Wiggles.”’ Without preaching, the book models the give and take of brother-sister relationships, annoying but loving.

The maths is simple enough for my 3 year old to enjoy, repeating patterns, with an Author’s Note to encourage further exploration. We came home from a birthday party recently with Lego bracelet-making kits, and were ‘just like Bina’, as my daughter made a pattern and repeated it along the bracelet, carefully placing the Lego shapes along the band. ‘I want to do an every-other-one pattern like Bina’, she said.

Adding another layer, the bracelets that Bina makes so carefully for her brothers are in celebration of the Indian festival of Raksha Bandhan, the exchange of bracelets and a small gift symbolizing ‘how siblings will always love each other’ – as the Author’s Note explains. It’s not a tradition that my Tamil husband grew up with, but my children can look at Bina and her brothers – with their dark curly hair, one wearing glasses, their shorts and shirts and dresses for most days, their kurta and salwar kameez for festivals, the piles of barfi and laddoo laid out – and see themselves. The annoyance and love, the arguments and affection – these are universal.

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