Like most kids, my nine-year old son and his six-year old sister are very curious about the world, and they have a special fascination with fact versus fiction. So when I recently met writer Emily Krieger and learned about her new book, Myths Busted!: Just When You Thought You Knew What You Knew, busting popular kidtastic myths (like dogs’ mouths being cleaner than humans!) we had to learn more.
Here’s Emily’s thoughts on what inspired her to write the book and what she learned in the process of researching it.
What inspired you to write the book?
Emily: I fact-checked articles for National Geographic magazine for many years, so I have a history of digging deep into subjects in search of the truth. Myths are funny in that a lot of them are widely believed, but most people really couldn’t tell you why. And some of these ideas have been around for hundreds of years, in a few cases even a thousand years! I think it’s important to encourage critical thinking, have kids ask themselves, “Why do I think this is true?” and go from there. In unlearning a myth, you learn so many interesting facts. The truth really is stranger than fiction.
What did you think is the most surprising myth (that it wasn’t true)?
Emily: The fact that Napoleon was average or above-average height really surprised me. It’s a good lesson in context: Well, what is “short”? Short by today’s standards, short for where he lived? He was actually average or above-average height for a man of his time and place.
Where did you get all the cool photos and illustrations for the book?
Emily: The editors of the book picked the illustrator, Tom Nick Cocotos. I love his work. A lot of the pictures in the book make me laugh out loud, they’re very clever.
What should a kid do if he or she hears something that they suspect might not be true? Follow up on that feeling. Ask yourself: “Does this make sense based on what I already know?”
Emily: Sometimes you can figure out the answer just by taking time to stop and think critically. Other times, you need more information to help make a decision. I encourage kids to read what experts have to say about a subject. These people spend their lives researching something and sharing their knowledge with us. Let’s use that information.
What your favorite myth (or fact!)?
Emily: It’s really hard to pick a favorite. I love them all! I think the one that tickled me the most, though, is that duck quacks don’t echo. I had never heard this, but when I was collecting myths to research, a lot of my family and friends mentioned it. I thought, well, it sounds silly, there’s probably not much out there about it. I was wrong. It turns out that in 2003 a team of scientists at the University of Salford in England conducted a study on this. They actually put a duck, named Daisy, in a room with great acoustics. And they recorded her quacks and echoes, effectively busting the myth. I found a recording of one of her quacks online and couldn’t stop listening to it, it cracked me up! I wanted to make it my ringtone. You can listen to it here: http:/ /www.acoustics.salford.ac.uk/acoustics_info/duck/media/trans.mp3
This is a great little book that will have your kids reading “busted” myths aloud to the family at the dinner table. Like us, you may be surprised at what you thought you knew (but didn’t!)