This Texas children’s book author is making math fun with infographics

“Charts, maps and graphs can tell stories through information and also through life experience. It’s a different form of expressing ourselves, and it’s a different form of communication.”

By Laura RiceSeptember 26, 2023 3:42 pm, , , ,

Lalena Fisher wasn’t a kid who loved math.

“But I loved drawing and I loved organizing things,” she says.

That led to a discovery the helped grow her appreciation of the subject.

“I found that with charts and graphs, I could draw and organize things and even use numbers,” Fisher says.

Patricia Lim/Texas Standard

She grew up to use those skills in creating information graphics for the Houston Chronicle and The New York Times. She also kept developing her drawing and worked in animation for programs such as “Blue’s Clues.” Her latest endeavor brings all those interests together.

“It occurred to me to try an experiment: Could charts be used to tell a children’s story?” Fisher says.

The answer to that question is her debut book: “Friends Beyond Measure: A Story Told with Infographics.”

Fisher says the book will work for kids at different levels.

“There really aren’t that many words to the main story,” she says. “I think a younger child could enjoy the story and then a slightly older child would enjoy, like I did Richard Scarry’s books, looking at all the little details and funny pictures.”

The story is about two little girls named Ana and Harwin.

“Ana immediately draws a Venn diagram of what she and her new friend Harwin have in common and what makes them different,” Fisher says. “As their friendship deepens, they play hours and hours and hours together, and Ana makes maps of both of their houses and yards and everything that they do in all the different areas of their house.”

Later, Ana learns Harwin is moving. For this part of the story, Fisher drew on her own experiences of a friend moving on.

I was really excited for her. But of course, I was also sad and a little envious,” she says. “And so I put these feelings into this giant bar chart, multicolored bar chart that Ana flops on top of to show all the different feelings that she has.”

Fisher hopes that kids will enjoy the book – with its playful pencil and marker drawings – but that they’ll also take away bigger lessons about feelings and how to understand and express them.

“To show new ways of enjoying mathematical concepts in a way that I didn’t have when I was a creative kid,” Fisher says.

“Friends Beyond Measure” is on sale now. Keep an eye out for Fisher at events, including one Dec. 9 in San Antonio at the Twig Book Shop during the Pearl Farmers Market.

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