CM . . . .
Volume VII Number 18 . . . . May 11, 2001
"Why is a giraffe's tongue purple?"Some question-and-answer books provide unexciting answers to questions you never wanted to ask, but not this one. The questions are not all concerned with matters of riveting interest to everyone---being personally unable to hit a baseball at all, the advantage of an aluminum bat over a wooden one left me cold, though the reasons are interesting---but the answers are amusingly phrased and solidly based, mostly on some branch of science or history. The broad topics range from animals through holidays, sports and superstitions, including such catchalls as "unusual but useful information," and "strange stuff." They include a fair number relating to things eschatological, in the biological rather than theological sense, which should appeal to the young adolescents among us.
With any book purporting to deliver facts, the accuracy of its statements is important. There were no obvious bits of misinformation that I noticed. In its discussion of the Dvorak keyboard, "h" is mentioned as one of the most frequently used consonants, and then in the funny-fact addendum to the answer there is the statement "The letters used least often are h, j, x, z, and q." I suspect that in the second statement, "h" is a typo for "k"---not a serious mistake.
The book is fun both in the subjects it considers and in the phrasing of the replies. Fact-fascinated kids of all ages will love it. It also has an index, a list of useful web sites where further information can be found on a number of topics, and a few riddles and jokes thrown in for good measure.
And in case you are wondering, no one knows for sure why the giraffe's tongue is purple, but it is a phenomenon shared with the chow chow dog, who is said to have licked up the drips of blue paint that fell to the ground when God painted the heavens. Perhaps the giraffe licked the sky?
Mary Thomas works in two Winnipeg elementary schools and is happy to know that it is actually true that a bucket of hot water freezes faster than a similar bucket of cold. And why!
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