Quote of the Month

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

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Tidings Of Truth

Most people are filled with a need to know, an insatiable curiosity.  They thrive on facts.   Revived in 1984 the immensely popular Jeopardy! television game show has won more awards than any other game show in television history.  The board game Trivial Pursuit conceived by two Canadians, Chris Haney and Scott Abbott, in 1979 and released in 1981, has (by 2010) sold more than 100 million copies. The Guinness World Records books have been published for more than sixty years.  The only time they are on the shelves in school libraries is on the first and last day of school.

Another popular series with gals and guys is the Weird but true! titles published by National Geographic PartnersNational Geographic Kids Weird but true! Christmas: 300 festive facts to light up the holidays (September 12, 2017) is brimming with information.  Every page turn brings new truths, some downright astonishing.

On the title page we read

100 MILES (161km)

The polar bear, in a speech bubble, proclaims


Details about icicles being grown by a machine, Santa's wealth and an ornament of enormous size are spread across the first two pages.  Readers are warned about experimenting with their tongues and a piece of metal in freezing temperatures.

We learn about evergreen trees, Christmas lists, mistletoe plants, Christmas carols, reindeer names, Christmas day foods, toboggan material, snowflakes, poinsettias, Christmas cards, United States presidents and gingerbread houses.  Deep-fried caterpillars are considered a Christmas Day delicacy in parts of South Africa.  As a joke Apollo astronauts sent a message to NASA; they saw a pilot in a red suit flying an unidentified flying object.  President Franklin Pierce was the first president to have a Christmas tree in the White HousePresident Theodore Roosevelt forbade Christmas trees from being in the White House.

Our minds are stuffed like stockings hung for a midnight visitor with information about Christmas lights, the North Pole, The Nutcracker, items baked in Christmas desserts, tinsel, Santa Claus, indoor snowball fights, snowmen and snow mazes and Nativity scenes.  In Victorian England people would gather to tell ghost stories as a Christmas tradition.  America's favorite pastime, historically, baseball is known for the record of people wearing Santa hats.  Thirty-five thousand people wore them to a game.  An ice festival in Sapporo, Japan holds a special record too.  Can you name it?  Can you guess where in the world people roller-skate to church on Christmas day?

Like a gift that keeps on giving we are educated on elves, candy canes, animals with seasonal names, snow and snow sculptures, the Rockefeller Christmas Tree, Advent calendars, strange seasonal laws and snow globes.  An Advent calendar costing close to 2.7 million dollars held

24 precious diamonds.

An annual custom is for the city of Oslo, Norway to give a Christmas tree to the city of London, England.  Did you know the staff at the White House once hung 8,000 paper snowflakes from the ceiling within the building? (In case you are wondering when this happened, here is an NPR article.)  I'll be staying up very late this year to see if a legend from Europe comes true.  It is said when the clock gets to midnight on Christmas Day, animals can talk.  One of the final fun facts comes from Canada.  They have a post office specifically for Santa letters.  The postal code is


A group of experts are named in the acknowledgements for working on the writing and gathering of facts.  The facts are noted in no particular order throughout the book, but seem to create a subtle tension getting better and better as we get to the conclusion of the book.  As I flipped from page to page I was exclaiming out loud more and more often.

Each fact is accompanied by photographs or realistic drawings.  Backgrounds and the color palette shift accordingly.  Sometimes a fact and the image will extend across two pages.  Usually there are no more than five facts to a two-page group.  To provide variety in the design, facts may appear along the bottom of two pages.

Humor is added in the form of comments by elements in the illustrations.  When citing the custom of a giant snowman that explodes with fireworks, he can be seen, ablaze, saying


A runner wearing a gingerbread man suit during a marathon is saying


You'll want multiple copies of National Geographic Kids Weird but true! Christmas: 300 festive facts to light up the holidays for all your collections.  It would make a perfect Christmas treat for under the tree or in a stocking.  (I have several copies for gifts.)  This title would be excellent for challenging students to use their research skills to verify the truth of these presented facts.  At the conclusion of the book is a six-page alphabetical fact finder listing all sorts of topics and their page numbers.  If the number is bolded there is an illustration.

At Penguin Random House you can view twenty pages in this title including the title pages.  At National Geographic Kids there are numerous links to more information fun.  National Geographic Kids has a YouTube channel.

Take a few moments to visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to enjoy the other titles noted by bloggers participating in the 2017 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.

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