Monday, January 22, 2018

The Truth about Nature

The Truth About Nature:  A Family's Guide to 144 Myths about the Great Outdoors
©  2014 Stacey Torno and Ken Keller
212 pages

Great news, kids. The tyranny of mom is over: no longer do you have to wait 45 minutes after eating to go swimming. Turns out you can wolf down a hot dog mid-stroke and nary a thing will happen, except for maybe a really soggy hot dog bun. attack by sea gulls.  That misconception and 143 others are debunked in The Truth about Nature,  which collects misinformation about the natural world passed down from one generation to another, alongside columns like "Strange but True", or facts that seem outrageous but which are really truth -- because that's just how nature rolls. I stumbled upon this book at the library and was immediately attracted by the cover. It's written for juvenile audiences, and is written not just to flush out old information but to sharpen scientific appraisal: the authors often charge the reader with evaluating just how they might find out that a particular information is bunk, prompting them to imagine different possibilities and how they might evaluate them  The collected misconceptions themselves range from folk wisdom ("Moss grows on the north side of trees") to entries that I think were just fudged a bit and thrown in. There's a section on how clouds aren't actually white, as they can also be grey -- and sometimes, oak trees don't have acorns, because it's not the right season.  Well...okay, but that doesn't strike me as a "myth" in the same way that "touching a toad will give you warts" does.  At least one debunked fact -- that rabbits are rodents -- was a surprise to me. Turns out they're lagomorphs. Also, they don't eat carrots, but I kind of figured. They also don't sing opera, or foil the engineering schemes of malevolent coyotes.

While this is intended for younger audiences -- probably late elementary and early middle --  adult readers who are in the mood for some light reading will also find it enjoyable.


  1. This sounds like a neat book to read. I tend to be somewhat of a skeptic when it comes to folk wisdom myself.

    1. As am I, but I have an interesting book on my to-read list about the unexpected merits of some proverbs. It's called "Cows, Pigs, Wars, and Witches: The Riddles of Culture".


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