A Grain of Rice
When a humble farmer named Pong Lo asks for the hand of the Emperor’s beautiful daughter, the Emperor is enraged. Whoever heard of a peasant marrying a princess? But Pong Lo is wiser than the Emperor knows. And when he concocts a potion that saves the Princess’s life, the Emperor gladly offers him any reward he chooses-except the Princess. Pong Lo makes a surprising request. He asks for a single grain of rice, doubled every day for one hundred days. The baffled Emperor obliges-only to discover that if you’re as clever as Pong Lo, you can turn a single grain of rice into all the wealth and happiness in the world. (Amazon)
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A Critical Review of A Grain of Rice by Helena Clare Pittman
Name: Steven Burdette
Grade: High School (9 – 12)
Subjects taught: Career and Technical Education – Business classes including Business Computer Applications, Creative Coding through Games and Applications, Web Page Publishing, Essentials of Business and Marketing, Entrepreneurship.
School: Buffalo High School, Putnam County WV
Grade level/appropriate age: Although A Grain of Rice is aimed at younger children, the lesson it teaches is timeless. And the math involved can be used at the high school level.
This children’s book is a clever way of introducing class distinctions, making promises, and the unintended consequences of those promises. The math involved can be a little above the head of most elementary grade school children.
A Grain of Rice, by Helena Clare Pittman, is a delightful tale of one man’s love of someone who is out of reach. Because of Pong Lo’s status as a commoner, his fervent love of the Emperor’s daughter is forbidden. Pong’s audacity of asking the Emperor for Princess Chang Wu’s hand in marriage causes the Emperor to fly into a rage and he responds to Pong’s request by drawing his sword. Only Chang Wu’s had keeps this story from ending on the fourth page! Because of Pong’s quick wit and disarming personality, The Emperor allows Pong to work at the palace. Starting as a janitor, Pong displays his cleverness to his superiors and quickly moves into a position of some import. However, as a commoner, he is still not able to woo Wu.
Time passes and the Emperor sets out to find a suitable nobleman to wed the young princess. Wu is so depressed at the thought of marrying anyone other than Lo that she falls seriously ill. As physician after physician tries and fails to cure the princess, the Emperor issues a proclamation: anyone in China that can cure his daughter will be handsomely rewarded. Of course, Lo comes to the rescue! The Emperor offers anything in the kingdom to Pong, but not his daughter’s hand in marriage. So instead of great riches, Pong asks for a grain of rice to be delivered to his room, to be doubled each day for one hundred days. The Emperor believes this to be a small request and grants it without looking at the long term consequences. It soon becomes apparent that there will not be enough rice in all of China to grant his request. Eventually, Pong is granted the title of Prince, and is allowed to marry Chang if he recants his request for the rest of the rice. Pong agrees and they live happily after ever!
As a high school business teacher, I can think of many reasons to use this book in a lesson. The first is an ethical lesson about unintended consequences. Making promises to reach a short term goal without realizing the costs of the long term practicalities is a very important lesson indeed! Secondarily, a book like this can be a spring-board for use in a Web Page publishing class. The book can be used as a way to have students program a web page with multiple links to other pages, as well as becoming familiar with placing text around images.