________________ CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 5. . . .October 1, 2010


Don't Touch That Toad and Other Strange Things Adults Tell You.

Catherine Rondina. Illustrated by Kevin Sylvester.
Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2010.
96 pp., hardcover, $14.95.
ISBN 978-1-55453-454-8.

Subject Headings:
Superstition-Miscellanea-Juvenile literature.
Superstition-Miscellanea-Juvenile humor.
Folklore-Miscellanea-Juvenile humor.
Folklore-Miscellanea-Juvenile literature.

Grades 3-5 / Ages 8-10.

Review by Gillian Richardson.

*** /4



Everyone eats a peck of dirt before dying…

If you were like most little kids, you probably made a few mud pies. But it's a little weird that anybody would actually eat a mud creation. Even if you did decide to try your muddy recipe, wouldn't one bite be enough for your taste buds to freak out? Besides, we're not talking a little dirt here. A peck of dirt is about 7.5 liters (2 gallons) of the grainy brown stuff, which adds up to about 18 cereal bowls full. Now that's a lot of mud pie eating, if you ask me.

True….Almost everything we eat is grown in the dirt, so it only makes sense that we ingest some during our lives. But don't let the fact that you eat dirt make you gag. It turns out that eating a peck of dirt over your lifetime may help keep you healthier. Kids who have early contact with things often found living in dirt such as bacteria, viruses and parasites may receive a boost to their immune system that prepares it for various germ attacks in the future. Now this doesn't mean you should go out and grab a handful of earth from your garden every morning for breakfast, but if a grain or two sneaks into your food once in awhile, there's no need to worry.

The title of this compact little book, Don't Touch that Toad & Other Strange Things Adults Tell You, is sure to grab a young reader's attention. What kid doesn't like to hear that parents may not know everything, or that some of their ideas are 'strange'? The author has selected familiar sayings and warnings about health, science, food and animals, and debunked many of them with the latest research and common sense. Readers will learn how the expressions originated and have been passed down through the generations. They'll also learn some truths that may be slightly different from expectations. And they'll become involved by being given the facts and an invitation to think and decide for themselves.

      For instance, going outside with wet hair won't make you catch cold, a swallowed watermelon seed won't grow in your stomach, and if food is dropped on the floor, forget it, it will have picked up bacteria after only one second. But, even though cracking knuckles hasn't been proven to be a cause of arthritis, it can lead to a weaker grip in your fingers over time. While apples can't keep you from getting sick, they do kill "up to 80 percent of bacteria in your mouth". Even if eating sugar won't make you hyper, it can lead to obesity, diabetes and tooth decay. It's left up to you to decide if yawning is contagious ("Try yawning in a room full of people and see what happens"), if chicken soup can cure a cold or if animals can predict natural disasters. There's enough here to engage a curious young mind and even to send the reader off to find out more…e.g. how do researchers determine that elephants have incredible memories? A list of other "parentisms" that kids may hear all the time, but that may defy explanation is included at the back of the book and offers another way to involve readers in creating their own clarifications.

      The writing style is quirky and upbeat, and the lighthearted tone is enhanced by humorous animated line drawings. For kids who are curious about language oddities, superstitions and folklore, this would be a fun book to give as a gift. It will prove useful for kids who want to win those arguments with their friends about these strange sayings, too.


Gillian Richardson is a freelance writer living in BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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