How To Be a Skeptical Reader

No, this is not a book about politics. But it does have its share of alternative facts. Two Truths and a Lie by Ammi-Joan Paquette and Laurie Ann Thompson, for kids aged 8-12 is a natural science book. Each chapter has three stories, all of which are of the truth-is-stranger-than-fiction variety, except one of them is NOT true. The challenge to the reader is to use the web to become a fact checker and figure out which of these fantastic stories is pulling your leg.

For example, the first chapter describes a plant called a fleece flower that has a tuberous root that looks like a human being, with a full-color picture to prove it; then there is the story of a forest in Utah of 47,000 quaking aspen trees, that are all actually the same plant; and lastly, there are a whole bunch of plants that can communicate with each other when threatened –plants can learn. The writing is lively and detailed for all three, so which one is the con?

I like to think I’m pretty knowledgeable, when it comes to science, but Paquette and Thompson had me fooled more than once. (The answers are in the back of the book.) So I stopped guessing and cheating and actually began researching the stories. Paquette and Thompson have uncovered some noteworthy hoaxes, like the megaconda, where the myth from a film became the reality.

Scattered throughout the book are lists of items that all have something in common, like a “Medley of Maladies.” Yet one isn’t real. I guessed wrong!

Two Truths and a Lie is not a book to be read in one sitting. It is to be delved into in small doses, one chapter at a time. If you look at the references in the back of the book, you’ll see that the lies are as carefully researched as the truth that proves that they’re lies.

This is a highly entertaining way to learn that truth is stranger than fiction and that crafty fiction can lead you down a garden path. Two Truths and a Lie is an enlightening resource for readers to gain a variety of research skills so they can tell the difference.

Publication date: June 27. 2017.

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