A Grain of Rice

This short, little story will delight both you and your children.  In A Grain of Rice by Helena Clare Pittman, the peasant Pong Lo asks the Emporer of China for his daughter’s hand in marriage.

The Emperor, along with all his court, is scandalized by his request.  How on earth could a poor farmer ask to marry the princess?

“‘[I]t is my head which qualifies me!’ replie[s] Pong Lo. ‘It is wise and quick and more than a little clever, and would make me as fine a prince as China has ever seen.'”

The Emperor disagrees, but their verbal exchange earns Pong Lo a place as a lowly servant in the palace.

Pong Lo is not only clever, but also a hard worker, always with a smile on his face.  His pleasant disposition, despite the Emperor’s refusal of his request, makes him many friends in the palace and earns him promotion after promotion.  (His various positions will make you smile – from ‘Imperial Storeroom Scrubber’ to ‘Imperial Assistant to the Imperial Storeroom Keeper’ and on up the ladder, the titles sound a tad ridiculous.)

The princess becomes ill, and Pong Lo creates a potion which saves her life.  The Emperor, wishing to reward him, asks Pong Lo what he wants.

The clever Pong Lo humbly requests a grain of rice, doubled each day for 100 days.

The request surprises the Emperor, and he gladly agrees.  But he doesn’t understand the power of mulitiplication like Pong Lo does – and before the 100 days is up, the Emperor is panicking.

We have enjoyed reading this book over and over – and continue to refer to it, not only to Pong Lo’s example of a good attitude, but also to help in understanding multiplication.

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