Part memoir, part reference book, Father Knows Less by Wendell Jamieson is one man’s attempt to answer all the bizarre questions that children pose. At the start of each chapter, Wendell shares a personal story about his childhood, or about his son’s speech impediment. Although these stories are amusing, I feel they could have been trimmed to make more room for the questions. From these prose sections, we can understand how children develop their natural sense of curiosity, how simple answers aren’t good enough, and how “just because” or “I don’t know” are not effective responses. Wendell Jamieson is a reporter for the New York Times, and he has put his connections to good use finding experts to answer these hard to answer questions, instead of doing what most parents do, making up the answers himself. The questions are very insightful and funny and the experts answering the questions do so with a sense of humor and with a simple explanation. “Can I cook my sister” for instance, leads to a discussion on cannibalism by Timothy Tayler, MA. PH.d., FSA, reader in archaeology at the University of Bradford in the United Kingdom. Many of the questions were inquiries that caught my interest, “Lets say a person is born deaf and uses sign language and reads lips. When they think, do they think in words or in signs?” For this answer, Jamieson spoke to a faculty member at Gallaudet University, who was born deaf.
Some other interesting facts I learned while reading this book: did you know that Harlem was the original Big Apple and not New York? The S in the dollar sign is believed to be an evolved symbol for the Mexican pesos, which was written as a P with 2 slashes going through it. You need to be 12 years of age or older to accept an eviction notice, even though you cannot live in an apartment by yourself at that young age.
I found this book to be very entertaining, and I was very amused by reading of Jamieson’s past and the struggles of his son Dean, to overcome his speech impediment and grow to be able to name all the dinosaurs and know everything there is to know about them expertly. The questions are compiled from Jamieson’s own son, as well that of children’s of friends and anyone else who submitted a question on Jamieson’s website www.fatherknowslessbook.com. This is a handy book to keep around when those inevitable questions “what is die? Do I want to die?” and “why is it called soccer? They don’t play in socks” come tumbling out of kids’ mouths.
FINAL GRADE: A
**************************Father Knows Less: One Man’s Quest to Answer His Son’s Most Baffling Questions by Wendell Jameison Perigee Trade, May 27, 2008 ISBN: 9780399534584 304 pages