We each bring our own assumptions to every story we tell and every story we hear. In a world filled with information, being able to challenge our own assumptions and independently evaluate available data are increasingly important life skills. Build these skills with the following three books, which each have a humorous take on the powers of assumption and logic.
Moose Tracks! by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jack E. Davis, follows an unidentified narrator as they try to identify the source of moose tracks on every surface (even a pie!) in their home. Like every young child— and many adults, for that matter— the narrator implicitly assumes that they are NOT the source of the mess. Each spread gives the reader a little more data as to the tracks’ source, and the final reveal shows a collection of characters conspiring with the reader to, quite literally, point a finger at the moose. I love reading this with my kids because the story is a fun read while also being a concrete example of how blind we can be to our own assumptions and how to logically solve a problem with the facts available.
Read the Book, Lemmings! by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Zachariah OHora, is a hilarious response to misinformation gone viral– the notion that lemmings willingly jump off cliffs in mindless droves. Turns out, this false information is rooted in a 1958 Disney documentary called White Wilderness wherein the mass suicide of lemmings was artificially created by the filmmakers and presented as fact. I love how the story hilariously highlights the absurdity of the mass suicide concept with dramatic, illiterate lemmings plummeting into arctic waters at the mere mention of the word “jump.” (The lemmings never listen to the whole sentence when a knowledgeable arctic fox tries to help by reading excerpts from “Everything About Lemmings.”) Emphasizing the importance of literacy, the lemmings discover they “don’t jump off cliffs” once able to read the book for themselves. Lessons abound: don’t assume information is factual just because its source claims as much; don’t assume someone has the same skillset as yourself, such as being able to read; don’t assume there’s nothing more to learn; and, of course, every parent’s favorite lesson— listen to the whole sentence!
The Bear Ate Your Sandwich by Julia Sarcone-Roach is a gorgeous and engrossing story about the fate of one delicious sandwich. Told by a narrator who remains anonymous until the end, the main storyline is an elaborate lie as told by a culpable dog, as imagined by a little girl. Following a bear from its home in the forest to a San Franciscan park and the fated sandwich, the story is just fantastical enough for a young child to take pause— How did the truck driver not notice a bear? How did the bear wander a city unobstructed? How does a bear even get on a swing? The bear’s experiences in the city are seen through the eyes of someone who has never left the forest— assuming shingles are bark, light poles are trees and cement is mud— which creates opportunity to discuss how our biases are rooted in personal experience. And the ending is an excellent prompt to discuss the influence of motive on a narrator’s factual reliability. Bonus: It is a lighthearted way to point out that most lies can be exposed by available data— something my toddler is still working out.