Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Monday, June 5, 2017

Get Your Facts Straight

One technique for enhancing the connectedness of a group of people is to have them participate in icebreakers, activities designed to reveal information about each individual.  One of these games is called Two Truths and a Lie.  Participants sit in a circle with each one making three assertions about themselves.  The others need to figure out which one of the three statements is false.

When engaged in this contest of wits, we are able to assess body language and facial expression along with the spoken words.  In a new title, Two Truths And A Lie: It's Alive! (Walden Pond Press, June 27, 2017) written by Ammi-Joan Paquette and Laurie Ann Thompson, arranged using a similar format, it's much trickier to sort what is real from what is fabricated.  As we read it's all about separating the possible from the impossible and reaching credible conclusions.

You should know something right up front:  this book is sneaky.

This first sentence in the introduction has my undivided attention.  The narrator continues with an explanation of the book's contents; three parts, nine chapters and three stories in each of those chapters.  Two stories are absolutely true and the other is blatantly false.  It's up to us to decide.

Read them.  Talk them over with your friends.  Do your own research.  Dig around online (safely, of course!).  When it comes to information---and life, really---asking good questions is a kind of superpower.  

It's hard to believe forty-seven thousand trees are all connected to a single plant covering an area larger than one hundred football fields or plants send out warnings to other plants about possible attacks from predators. These plants can even summon reinforcements in the form of insect soldiers or can they?  There might be a flower which at the possible height of ten feet has an odor which will literally knock your socks off.  It gives new definition to the term stench.  Do ants truly need to be on the watch for a fungus designed to turn them into zombies?  Plants turning into bridges, glowing in the dark like lanterns or reversing a taste from sour to sweet can't exist or do we discover they are real?

As shivery-creepy as this may seem the ears of wild dogs in East Africa might be the home of African threadsnakes and teeny, tiny scorpions might hide in the pages of books.  As you go hiking you will be looking in the trees along the Pacific Northwest for the weirdest thing ever, a tree octopus or tiny dragons...yes dragons...living in caves in Slovenia.  Have you ever heard of a family vacation dedicated summer after summer to finding dinosaur bones?  If so, you might know about the location of a dinosaur affectionately known as Bambi.  You won't want to remember a deadly sea creature growing to one hundred thirty-feet long.  It may actually be many joined as one and as thin as a rope.

As if the eighteen stories in the previous two parts on plants and animals are not challenging enough, the final nine stories within three chapters on humans will likely have you running to the nearest source of trustworthy information in a heartbeat.  Poop donors for fecal transplantation and urine transforming into energy are simply mind-boggling.  Is it possible for a person to have the hiccups for sixty-eight years and not go crazy?  Will experimentation with blood finally answer the quest for the fountain of youth?  Can we transmit our thoughts from one person to the next over the Internet? In all twenty-seven tales there is truth in varying degrees.  It's a quest you will willingly take, expanding your respect for this planet and its inhabitants.

The honest truth is you will have a hard time not reading this book in a single sitting.  Authors Ammi-Joan Paquette and Laurie Ann Thompson write in a manner to fully engage the reader.  Their word choices, use of language and meticulous research combine to draw you into the world of plants, animals and humans.  You won't want to leave.

Each part is prefaced by an upbeat introduction.  The stories are illustrated with captioned full color photographs, maps and artwork.  There are lists of ten asking you to locate the falsehood in each.  It might be a group of facts, real plant names, sea creature titles, weird medical procedures or kinds of diseases.  Readers are asked in Try This! or Take Action sections to expand their thinking.  Inserted flags define words mentioned in the stories extending understanding to the readers.  Sometimes Talk It Out paragraphs offer explanations and issue questions.  Here are some sample passages.

Ah, nature.  A green meadow.  Wind rustling through the leaves.  Mushrooms growing on the side of a fallen log.  What could be more peaceful, more predictable, more ordinary?

To that we say:  ha!  The plants and fungus we spotlight in this section are full of surprises.  They completely defy those common stereotypes and misconceptions!

Intrigued?  We hope so!  Because once you've read these, going green will never again mean quite the same thing...

Everyone needs a friend, right?  Someone to talk to.  Someone to do stuff with.  Someone who can curl up quietly and snooze inside your ear until the next time you want to hang out.

Talk It Out
From the tiniest mustard seeds to the tallest giant sequoia trees, plants are amazing!  They're extremely diverse and very different from us, and we're completely dependent on them for our survival.  Imagine you're a plant scientist.  What kinds of plants would you most like to study?  What questions do you have about how plants live? ...

Try This!
1.  The deep ocean is one of the most mysterious places on Earth, with new species of creatures being discovered all the time.  Pretend you are a deep-sea explorer who has just come upon an astonishing new creature.  What does it look like?  What does it eat?  How does it protect itself?  Make sure to give your creature a name and sketch its portrait for posterity. ...

As soon as you can, plan on placing more than one copy of Two Truths And A Lie: It's Alive! written by Ammi-Joan Paquette and Laurie Ann Thompson on your professional shelves.  I know it will be a hit at home too.  Some readers will read all the stories, make guesses and then look for answers.  Or they might start searching even before a story is finished.  The thing is... this book is loaded to the brim with facts...and yes, fiction.  It invites speculation and confirmation.  After the final story readers are offered a Research Guide with suggestions for seeking verifiable facts. An Answer Guide follows with complete discussions.  For each story, true or not, bibliographic resources are listed.  An index is proposed.  (I am working from an uncorrected proof.)

To learn more about Ammi-Joan Paquette and Laurie Ann Thompson and their other work please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  They both maintain accounts on Twitter here and here.  Laurie Ann Thompson wrote a guest post at author Tara Lazar's Writing for Kids (While Raising Them).

UPDATE:  June 30, 2017 This dynamic duo wrote a post about their title at the Nerdy Book Club.

UPDATE:  There is now a fabulous Educator's Guide to Support Information Literacy for this title. October 17, 2017.  

[There is a wonderful stand-alone lesson titled Two Truths and a Lie  accessible at the American Library Association which would pair wonderfully with this book.]

June 11 Geo Librarian
June 15 Novel Novice
                                                              June 21 Maria's Melange

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