Did you know that elephants in India have been trained to carry cameras into the jungle? Because elephants and Bengal tigers are used to sharing their habitat, the elephants were able to get unparalleled pictures of the rarely photographed cats.
Did you know that mooses' antlers act as hearing aids?
That a mother duck, after her babies were swept down a storm drain, followed the sound of their desperate peeping more than mile above ground? (I think this would be a great picture book).
These are a few of the very diverting things I read about about on my bus ride home yesterday. An all new Ripley's Believe It or Not book had arrived--Seeing is Believing (Ripley, 2009), and it added much enjoyment to my commute. As the examples above show, I was especially fascinated by the section on animals (less ethically problematic for me than the section on human curiosities), but the book contains a wealth of curious and eyebrow-raising snippets about a wide range of subjects--extreme earth, incredible feats, travel tales, amazing science, and strange sites, to name a few chapter headings. It's copiously illustrated, and the bullet format of the entries makes it easy to dip into in a relaxed way.
This sort of information is fun to read for its own sake, and the non-fiction loving middle grade kid should find much to enjoy here. But (bringing this into my blog's topic) the subject matter of this book can also serves as a springboard to the imagination--many of the tidbits of fact seem like things out of fantasy or science fiction, and many entries would make great story prompts for young writers creating their own unbelievable stories.
I'd advise some parental discretion--there are some pretty disturbing stories and pictures here, that verge on nightmarish--an x-ray of a kitten swallowed by a snake, some of the strange things people do themselves, human sideshows (baby ducks crying for their mama....it doesn't actually say that the mother ever found her babies, and I'm a bit afraid she never did). That being said, an older kid could conceivably spend hours poring over this, learning and marvelling and shuddering over the almost unbelievable things this book offers. And is rather appealing as well to some of us older readers, who might sometimes procrastinate a bit too enthusiastically by reading odd news on line...I always click on links to articles about two-headed chickens.
(review copy received from the publisher)