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Seven Golden Rings: A Tale of Music and Math

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An Indian boy untangles a mathematical conundrum to win a place at the Rajah's court.

In ancient India, a boy named Bhagat travels to the Rajah's city, hoping to ensure his family's prosperity by winning a place at court as a singer. Bhagat carries his family's entire fortune--a single coin and a chain of seven golden rings--to pay for his lodging. But when the innkeeper demands one ring per night, and every link snipped costs one coin, how can Bhagat both break the chain and avoid overpaying? His solution points the way to an unexpected triumph, and offers readers a lesson in binary numbers.

40 pages, Hardcover

First published July 14, 2020

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About the author

Rajani LaRocca

22 books428 followers
Rajani LaRocca was born in India, raised in Kentucky, and now lives in the Boston area, where she practices medicine and writes award-winning books for young people, including Red, White, and Whole, which won a 2022 Newbery Honor, the Walter Dean Myers Award, Golden Kite Award, and New England Book Award. Her other books include: Midsummer’s Mayhem (2019), Seven Golden Rings (2020), Bracelets for Bina’s Brothers (2021), Much Ado About Baseball (2021), Where Three Oceans Meet (2021), My Little Golden Book About Kamala Harris (2021), The Secret Code Inside You (2021), I'll Go and Come Back (2022), and more. She’s always been an omnivorous reader, and now she is an omnivorous writer of fiction and nonfiction, novels and picture books, prose and poetry. She finds inspiration in her family, her childhood, the natural world, math, science, and just about everywhere she looks. To connect with Rajani and learn more about her and her books visit her at www.RajaniLaRocca.com and on Twitter and Instagram @rajanilarocca.

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5 stars
139 (47%)
4 stars
101 (34%)
3 stars
50 (17%)
2 stars
3 (1%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 90 reviews
Profile Image for Cheryl Klein.
Author 5 books848 followers
July 5, 2020
I edited this, so I am completely biased, but it is wonderful! It functions both as the completely satisfying story of a boy who improves his family's fortunes through his talent and ingenuity, AND a stealthy lesson about binary numbers. And the illustrations by Archana Sreenivasan have character, humor, sweetness, and so much color and brilliant little details -- it's a delight to look at every time. Coming in October 2020 from Lee & Low Books.
Profile Image for Melanie Ellsworth.
Author 3 books9 followers
November 21, 2020
I’ve always loved tales where the hero had to use his/her brains to complete a quest, and this tale is a perfect example. Bhagat is a kind, bright boy who dreams of singing for the rajah, but ends up doing much more, benefitting the entire kingdom. (And he doesn't give up his dream of singing, either!) No hero journeys completely alone, so it’s nice to see a couple of helper characters like Bhagat’s mother and the innkeeper who give him support along the way. The rajah presents a refreshing character – a leader who, while not savvy at calculations and planning, does at least value “thinkers” enough to hire Bhagat. The author does a wonderful job of seamlessly incorporating math into the story as Bhagat figures out how to divide the 7 golden rings to fund his week-long stay at the inn. Readers who are excited to dive more deeply into math will appreciate the author’s note about how we use decimal and binary systems. A fast-paced, fun read with beautiful, colorful illustrations that kids will want to peruse over and over!
Profile Image for Amanda Brooke.
913 reviews7 followers
January 28, 2023
Nominated for the 2023 Washington Children's Choice Picture Book award, I am interested to see how the students will respond to it. I have dyscalculia so math is not obvious to me. I like the way the main character found a solution to his dilemma using math. From the title, I was expecting music to have something to do with the math, instead it took a back seat. At the end, the book has a long explanation of base ten value placement and binary - which actually is a short explanation - but long considering it's a picture book. As someone with dyscalculia, I could not follow it. I am curious how many students would love those paragraphs and how many like me, would just hear buzzing. Don't get me wrong, I love math. I suspect that my left parietal lobe is atrophied.

Reading a book outloud to students can change your review. After reading it to the kids, I see more clearly how the music moved the math. I spoke openly with my students about my experience with math and explained how I spend extra time doing a problem, but that I don't give up.
Profile Image for Mary Copp.
35 reviews1 follower
December 5, 2020
SEVEN GOLDEN RINGS is a truly clever and beautiful tale. The mixture of math and music is ingenuous and the story, compelling. Hopeful and wise Bhagat sets out from his “dusty village” in hopes of earning a spot in the rajah’s court as a singer. If successful his mother and he could work less and eat more. From the beginning of this story we are introduced to wholes, halves and quarters – all so seamlessly woven into Bhagat’s journey. And the math puzzle he needs to solve along the way, with patience and cleverness, is at the heart of this tender story. What a creative way to introduce readers to problem solving – and to instill in all of us that, like Bhagat, we are thinkers!
The illustrations by Archana Sreenivasan are full of life and color with so many details – a perfect pairing for this beautifully written story.
A comprehensive Author's Note clearly explains how Bhagat’s solution relates to binary numbers, making this concept accessible to young readers.
Profile Image for Sam Wedelich.
Author 7 books12 followers
February 19, 2021
Excellent book introducing logic concepts and math, mixed with a fairytale-esque plot. A young man is talented in math and music, and sees an opportunity to better his fortunes by winning a chance to sing for the rajah. When his talent for accounting and math is publicly recognized, he is given a role to help manage resources for the whole kingdom, and finds a better life for himself AND for everyone else. A great story about how sometimes our greatest talents and treasures lie hidden within us, until an opportunity brings them to light in a new way. The illustrations are colorful and gorgeous. This multicultural story is a great addition to any bookshelf looking for diversity and representation.
Profile Image for Sylvia.
Author 5 books109 followers
July 3, 2020
Seven Golden Rings is a delightfully clever picture book about Bhagat, a boy in ancient India, who seeks an audience with the rajah to become part of his musical court. Faced with the conundrum of paying for a week's stay at the inn without overpaying, Bhagat needs to figure out the most efficient way to break up a chain of 7 golden links. With just two breaks, he's able to calculate and pay for each night of the stay, until he can finally prove his worth to the rajah.

The illustrations are colorful, engaging, and graphic and add a liveliness to the story. Back matter is included to explain the binary system upon which Bhagat made his decisions.
Profile Image for Carrie Finison.
Author 4 books68 followers
October 6, 2020
There are so many layers, and so much to love in this beautiful book. Written in the style of an old folktale with lush, deeply colorful illustrations to match, this is the story of culture, music, math, and using one's gifts in an ingenious way to save not only one family but the whole kingdom. I love how Rajani LaRocca wove together these thematic threads into a seamless whole, and how Bhagat finds a brilliant way to solve the central math puzzle of the story. Best of all, after reading the author's note, I finally understand binary numbers! This wonderful STEM book is a must-add to any collection.
Profile Image for Darshana Khiani.
Author 3 books100 followers
September 12, 2020
An engaging and informative book that is sure to get those curiosity gears turning. What a clever way of explaining the complex topic of the binary numbers. I loved the author's folktale-sy narrative style that reminded me of one of my favorite picture books, One Grain of Rice, that also involves Indian folklore and math. The art is colorful, charming, and delightful. There is extensive backmatter explaining the decimal and binary number systems. This is a must for classrooms and libraries.
Profile Image for Mike.
10 reviews
December 20, 2020
An excellent book set in India (plus!!) about using math and numbers (another plus!!) as a means to survival for a teen and his mother. The artwork is absolutely superb and the pictures alone can tell the story.
The author even explains how binary numbers work which is a total plus for me as even I never knew how they worked; only that they only use the numbers 0 and 1.
A must read for anyone who enjoys math and who just loves a good story set in India.
Profile Image for Julie Hedlund.
Author 5 books174 followers
February 12, 2021
I am not a math person, so this book made my brain hurt, but in a good way. The art is stunning, the story clever, and the math works to elevate the story rather than the other way around. I was also humbled by the fact that my son figured out where the rings needed to be cut before he even finished reading the book - LOL! Great for teaching math concepts to both math lovers and math resisters (such as myself).
Profile Image for Stephanie Bange.
1,575 reviews13 followers
November 4, 2020
LaRocca's picture book debut delightfully wraps a math puzzle within Indian culture.

Bhagat and his mother live on the fringes of poverty. He proposes to his mother that he audition to be a singer in the rajah's court. She obliges by giving him what few valuables she has left - one rupee and the last seven gold link/rings of her wedding necklace. After careful thought, Bhagat works out a plan to make his resources last until he is invited to be a member of the rajah's court - not for his singing, but for his cleverness.

LaRocca opens wide a window into the world of 16th century India in this original tale, though it has the feeling of folklore. She weaves music (as Bhagat is a singer and walks to a rhythmic beat) with binary counting seamlessly into the tale. There is a natural cadence to the language that is pleasing and joyful to read aloud. The relationship and love between the boy and his mother is beautiful to experience. An author's note in the back explains the mechanics of the binary system of counting and its importance in society today.

Digital illustrations by Bangalore, India resident Archana Sreenivasan are rich, detailed, and authentic. They transport the viewer into another place and time quite readily. She includes details that clue readers into many things - examples include the wealth and luxury of the rajah's palace shown next to the squalor of his nearby subjects, the wealth of the innkeeper's wife in multiple dress, and the bare essentials of Bhagat and his mother (they wear the same clothes throughout the time of the story). Use of purples and golds and patterns and textures are things to be expected of Indian art, known as one of the most vibrant, visual cultures in the world.

Highly Recommended for grades 1-3.
Profile Image for Abi Cushman.
Author 3 books69 followers
November 20, 2020
Seven Golden Rings follows a boy with limited means who tries to create a better life for himself and his mother by risking everything they have in order to audition for a spot on the rajah's musical troupe. That in itself is a really compelling story and one we can all relate to in modern times. (Will we witness an epic fail à la American Idol or America's Got Talent??) But layered into that story is a math puzzle. And it's really fun to try to figure out the solution to the puzzle as you're reading.

The Author's Note at the end explains how the solution to the problem relates to binary numbers, and gives a really clear explanation of how binary numbers work. So it's a great way to make a topic like binary numbers really accessible and un-scary because you don't even realize you're learning about them while reading the story.

This book is written in the style of an old folktale, but with a wonderfully fresh spin on it. I love everything about it, from the beautifully-written text to the vibrant and kid-friendly pictures. Highly recommend.
Profile Image for Christina.
171 reviews4 followers
November 16, 2020
Oh, how I love Rajani LaRocca’s debut picture book SEVEN GOLDEN RINGS: A Tale of Music and Math...let me count the ways:
1. Lush, breathtaking setting of ancient India expanding from a “dusty village,” to the city where a glorious palace is found.
2. Gorgeous illustrations expertly colored and shaded by Archana Sreenivasan that show expressions in the finest of details.
3. Charming, determined protagonist named Bhagat who has so much to offer.
4. Bhagat is a hopeful singer who wants to share his songs
5. A beautiful mother/son relationship full of admiration and love
6. An incredibly clever math lesson disguised in the plot that had me scratching my head to solve.
7. A thorough author’s note to promote STEM and critical thinking about binary numbers and their connection to data.
SEVEN GOLDEN RINGS: A Tale of Music and Math is the perfect addition (see what I did there?) to any library!
Profile Image for Angela.
Author 3 books44 followers
August 23, 2020
This book hits so many of the curricular connections teachers so often look for! Music, math, and all from a carefully crafted story that reads like a fairy tale, with a culturally rich perspective.

A music-loving rajah, disinterested in the finer details of running his kingdom, neglects to provide his subjects with enough to eat. Bhagat, a talented singer and thinker, works long days with his Amma, and hopes that his gift of song will be a way out of poverty. On his journey to audition for the rajah, however, Bhagat's other strengths are revealed as he carefully budget the seven golden rings his Amma gave him for his travels.

Students will explore the mathematical concepts of division and binary numbers, all while soaking up absolutely stunning illustrations that portray the rich colors and cityscapes of India. And the ending? Let's just say it sings.
Profile Image for Isabella Kung.
Author 8 books24 followers
September 2, 2020
Seven Golden Rings is a beautiful and delightfully clever picture book about the journey of Bhagat, whose wits are sharp as can be. Bhagat had one rupee and a chain of seven golden rings, he was only able to pay the goldsmith enough to cut one of his seven golden rings to pay the inn-keeper every day. Bhagat the thinker was able to think outside of the box, with the perfect calculations he was able to find a solution to his dilemma without overpaying the inn-keeper once! Rajani's words remind me of old folk tales where the main character's wits and determination solve their problem at the end. Accompanied by the glorious illustrations by Archana Sreenivasan, immersing me in the beautiful colors, landscapes, and clothing from India. This multicultural STEAM book is a treasure to include in every kid's bookshelf, classroom, and library!
Profile Image for Sandy Brehl.
Author 7 books131 followers
January 31, 2021
What a wonder this lovely picture book is. I read it in search of recent releases that engaged "content" area topics through a multi-cultural lens. In fact, this is a must-have for math classrooms across many ages, but it also offers rich layers of emotional growth and problem-solving. A young person in quest of a dream is a wonderful way to launch a story, but the nature of his relationship with his mother, and her insightful advice early in the story create a hidden gem that shines through at the end.
The math puzzle is seamlessly planted within the story and unfolds in ways that allow readers/audiences to absorb the patterns and participate in the daily solutions. The author's skill in storytelling provides a very gratifying conclusion that wraps the "math" in a delightfully realistic magic.
Profile Image for Becky B.
7,385 reviews94 followers
September 7, 2022
A poor boy with a beautiful voice goes to answer the Rajah's summons for musicians to audition for the royal troupe. His mother reminds him that his musical skills are not his only asset, he's also a good problem solver. As he goes, his resources are limited and he must figure out how to pay the innkeeper without over- or under-paying. In doing so, he may just secure his mother's and his future, but maybe not in the way he envisioned.

There's a logic puzzle wrapped up in the story that will give brains of all ages a good work out. The book also highlights the way fractions appear in music, and in the back of the book talks about base ten and binary systems. On top of that, it is an interesting folktale illustrated in vibrant colors that really transport readers to India.
Profile Image for Kelly Carey.
Author 1 book41 followers
November 10, 2020
If you want me to get excited about math, the only way to do it is to sneak it into a magical fairytale of a story and SEVEN GOLDEN RINGS does just that!

With a gloriously exotic landscape filled with washes of sunset and sunrise colors, Bhagat sets out to audition for the Rajah’s Royal Troupe. His wise mother cautions him to offer the rajah more than just his musical skill and gives him the family’s last seven rings to pay for Bhagat’s journey. Readers will worry for Bhagat just as they marvel at his skill managing his dwindling rings. A gorgeous story with breathtaking illustrations – and a tricky bit of mathematical magic.
Profile Image for Kirsten.
Author 31 books61 followers
November 14, 2020
This is such a lovely book with so many layers, perfect for drawing in all kinds of readers. The illustrations are so lush, colorful, and inviting, just beckoning readers to take a trip to India via its pages. Bhagat is a musician at heart who wants to help his family by seeking employment with the king. As he leaves, his mother gives him seven fused links of chain, part of her necklace, plus one rupee. The math puzzle central to the tail requires Bhagat to think through the many ways the links can be broken to pay for his lodging. I had to read it more than once, and really study the excellent back matter about binary numbers. I highly recommend it.
Profile Image for Annamarie Carlson (she, her).
965 reviews14 followers
November 22, 2020
In ancient India, Bhagat travels to the city hoping to change his family's fortune by being selected as a singer for the rajah. He takes his family's fortune with him--one rupee and a chain of seven golden rings. But the innkeeper wants a ring for each night Bhagat stays there, and every broken link costs one rupee. How can Bhagat break the chain, pay for his room, and never give away more than he has to?

A fun story mixing the feel of a fairy tale with math. A great choice for an elementary classroom or a storytime where kids stop reading when Bhagat is faced with his math problem and try to figure out a solution themselves.
Profile Image for Andrea Northam.
180 reviews7 followers
April 30, 2021
OOOH BOY, this is an excellent book. First, the book is reminiscent of classic folk tales, with a strong lesson to be gleaned. Second, the book shows how to think critically to solve a complex problem (and there is some explanation in the back as to how the protagonist solves the math riddle). Third, the book teaches readers to not be inflexible with their goals and dreams--that while one dream might not work out, there will be another opportunity if you are open to a different path. Fourth, the illustrations and colors are beautiful (note: the reader may immediately draw a parallel between this book's illustrations and Disney's version of Aladdin, even though this story is explicitly set in India whereas Disney's Aladdin is a hodge-podge of erroneous cultural representations). I HIGHLY recommend this book. While I think it is too long to read during a library story time, it would definitely be perfect for a bedtime story.
Profile Image for Shari.
455 reviews13 followers
October 31, 2020
Wow, what an incredible picture book! I have to admit that the words "binary numbers" have always intimidated me, but I could not put this book down! Connecting the idea of binary numbers to music and story is brilliant, making these ideas relevant and compelling. Rajani's notes at the end are so well written that I wanted to keep reading and learn more! This book is perfect for a STEM/STEAM collection, and for introducing children (and some grownups) to the concept of binary numbers. The art by Archana Sreenivasan is gorgeous. I can't wait to see more from both of these creators!
Profile Image for Anna Crowley Redding.
Author 7 books42 followers
December 3, 2020
First the illustrations immediately set the stage and transport you into this richly drawn world. And then the story... a tale that immediately feels classic and wise with an inspiring main character who takes us along his surprising journey by using his unique gifts to change his life (and his mother's). I don't want to say anything more except BUY THIS BOOK and read it to your children. The reward? An organic love for numbers, a stunning hero's journey, and the warmth of a beautiful love between mother and son. A masterful job by author Rajani LaRocca!
Profile Image for Gabrielle Stoller.
1,333 reviews23 followers
December 28, 2020
I feel in love with Rajani LaRocca and her debut middle grade book, Midsummer's Mayhem. (Y'all know how much I loved it.) So when I heard a picture book was headed for publication, color me intrigued!

Books that tackle math and computing concepts are in high demand these days (as much as this non-math brain hates to admit it.) While the binary was slightly over my head, I appreciate Rajani's explanation and the way she made this tale such fun. The color palate is ALIVE and VIBRANT. I loved the tale of how to make something stretch and get the "most bang for your buck!"

So why three stars? It is merely a preference thing.
Profile Image for Jennifer Guyor Jowett.
112 reviews1 follower
June 24, 2020
In a tale as clever as it is magical, Rajani Narasimhan LaRocca shares the journey of Bhagat who hopes to improve his family's prosperity by singing for the Raja, but it is his cleverness with numbers that helps him succeed. Young readers (and old) will be introduced to strategic problem solving as Bhagat thinks through the dilemma he's facing. The illustrations are rich and engaging and the story is beautifully told.
Profile Image for Vicky Fang.
Author 16 books30 followers
October 7, 2020
This book tells the story of a young musician who wishes to become a royal performer. Along the way, he uses his cleverness to overcome obstacles, discovering his own talents to save the kingdom. This book is both clever and beautiful, with a fun math riddle at the heart. The storytelling, setting, and illustrations work beautifully together to create a story that you'll want to read again and again.
Profile Image for Shelley.
Author 16 books67 followers
January 6, 2021
A beautifully written, illustrated and designed picture book. Told as a folktale-style narrative, readers follow a young boy who uses creative thinking skills to make the most of his sparse resources to eventually impress the Rajah. LaRocca deftly demonstrates the basis of binary mathematics as we root for Bhagat and follow his journey. The story itself is beautifully executed, and the informative back-matter about the history of decimal and binary thinking is equally well-done. Favorite line: Consider all you have to offer...
9 reviews
February 15, 2023
Seven Golden Rings follows a time-honored pattern of the young protagonist striking out to change his family's fate, and introduces mathematical concepts in way that feels both fitting and fresh. After the story comes to its satisfying conclusion, readers are invited to delve into number systems that differ from our familiar decimal system. I did not know how to represent numbers in binary before picking up this book. After reading it to my kids (ages 9 and 6), we all understood the binary system well enough to have some fun writing numbers in binary. And while my 3-year-old is too young to understand the math, she enjoyed the story and the illustrations, too. A wonderful book for people of all ages!
Profile Image for Candy Wellins.
Author 4 books15 followers
August 31, 2020
Such a clever story. This book is a must for every elementary math classroom and a perfect fairy tale too. Bhagat wants to sing for the king and his mother gives him her wedding necklace to finance his journey. Using deep, creative thinking, he solves the problem. The story shows the value in thinking outside the box and how new strategies can solve a problem. A very original and fun book.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 90 reviews

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