THE CURIOUS CHILD is the first children's book written by Donni Floyd, formerly a pop music star and a model. (Perhaps it is an appropriate choice for my first children's book to review. The author and I are both first-timers.) The book is apparently for children in the age range of five to nine. The brevity is appropriate to that age group. There are nine pages of text, about right for a short bedtime read.

Floyd's intended purpose is that children should unafraid to ask questions. From the illustrations the story seems to take place on a South Pacific island that is inhabited by both people and dragons. A boy who asks many questions of many people is sent to see a wise old dragon who might have a spell to cure him of the habit. The people who send him do not know that the dragon has become old and dangerous. The dragon gives the boy three questions but will eat the boy if none of the questions stumps him. The first two questions the dragon answers flippantly and falsely, but the boy seems not to notice. The boy's third question is how many numbers are there in all. The dragon tries counting all numbers and is tied up with the problem ever after.

The book may send mixed signals about the value of curiosity. The unnamed boy finds that asking the right question at the right moment gets him out of a dangerous situation with a dragon, but he was in that mortal danger because he had asked too many questions previously. The fact that the boy nearly died as a result of bothering too many people with questions might not be quite the right idea to send to children.

On the other hand there are some unexpected positive touches in the book. The boy does not defeat the dragon by force or destructiveness. He bests the dragon by using intelligence. His question for the dragon is a simply stated but complex mathematical question and may serve to ignite some rudimentary mathematical interest in the book's audience.

I was left with two questions--and I feel impelled to ask them. On such a small island why had the people not heard that their dragon had turned deadly? And why was the dragon more willing to be more serious about the third question than he had been with the first two.

Grethel Peralta's illustrations add a definite charm to the story, though they are not entirely consistent as to how the dragon is pictured.

This lesson in asking questions may satisfy and inspire the child, but only if he does not ask too many questions.

[Incidentally the boy's third question was originally answered by the famous mathematician Georg Cantor who said it was one kind of infinity he called "aleph-one." If we are, like the dragon is apparently, interested only in the whole counting numbers the correct answer is another smaller kind of infinity called "aleph- zero."]

Mark R. Leeper mleeper@optonline.net Copyright 2008 Mark R. Leeper