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Book Reviews

Hoaxed! Fakes and Mistakes in the World of Science

by Editors of Yes Mag; Howie Woo, illus.

In the past decade or so, science writing for kids has improved tremendously, and Jude Isabella, the managing editor of Yes Mag, has played a big role in making that happen. In addition to publishing the monthly science magazine, Isabella and her staff have already produced four books in association with Kids Can Press. Each focuses on a high-interest science-related topic. This latest addition is all about scientific flubs and fakers.

The six main case studies are captivating and diverse, including a Stone Age tribe that isn’t what it appears to be, crop circles, the Roswell UFOs, and a naturalist who turns out to be a natural liar. Related cases appear as short features within the larger chapters. Throughout the book, clear, conversational prose is augmented by photos and Howie Woo’s humorous, colourful cartoons.

If there is any fault to be found with the book, it is that the main title is a bit misleading. Only about half of the main topics covered are deliberate hoaxes. The rest are mistakes or misinterpretations, usually caused by the overenthusiasm of either the media or scientists themselves. Attempts to harness cold fusion, for example, were never purposefully deceptive, just mistaken. No effort is made to apply the book’s “Hoaxspotting” checklist to these cases, and readers may have trouble doing so on their own.

However, that won’t prevent young readers from enjoying the fascinating stories presented here. And the idea that even scientists sometimes get fooled is entertaining and educational enough.