Stuff Kids Should Know by Clark and Bryant

Stuff Kids Should Know draws from a popular podcast to detail the fascinating histories behind some everyday realities.

Stuff Kids Should Know: The Mind-Blowing Histories of (Almost) Everything by Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant. Henry Holt, 2023, 208 pages.

Reading Level: Middle Grades, ages 10-12

Recommended for: ages 12-15

“The world is so full of a number of things,/ I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings,” wrote Robert Louis Stevenson in a Child’s Garden of Verses. I’m always reminded of that line when paging through a book like this: a compendium of bet-you-never-thought-about-this facts from our amazing world. From the origins of Mr. Potato Head (which was, in the beginning, an actual potato) to seven ways to stay lost (don’t try this in the woods), from how we age and how to avoid it to the two men who may be the world’s first trillionaires (I’m not telling), the stuff behind the stuff is always much more interesting and detailed than we suspected.

The authors have drawn fourteen episodes from their popular “Stuff You Should Know” podcast to staff this random collection. Though kid-friendly, parents should be aware of occasional references to evolution and oblique references to sex—but, thankfully, not “gender.” The chapter on back-masking, or the technique of recording backward in order to play forward, contains an off-putting references to people seeing Christ or Mary in a slice of toast: “If you believe Jesus died for your sins, it makes sense he keeps showing up in carbs.” (Um . . . why?) But this is an interesting observation: “When we see something in the randomness [e.g. the Virgin Mary in a bread slice] it’s always God, but when we hear something in the randomness [e.g. backwards recording], it’s always the Devil.” Aside from these cautionary notes, kids who love facts will enjoy discovering these.

Overall Rating: 3.5

Worldview/moral value: 3

Artistic/literary value: 4

Read more about our ratings here.

Also at Redeemed Reader

Reviews: Find more share-worthy facts in Amazing Rivers and Migration: Incredible Animal Journeys. Also our roundup of oversize nonfiction about math and classification.

Resource: “Nonfiction” is a huge subjection of children’s publishing—just type nonfiction in our  search box and scroll for pages and pages. But Can You Identify the Five Nonfiction Categories?

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