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Sunday, August 11, 2013

Duped! Written by Andreas Schroeder and illustrated Remy Simard. Annick Press, 2011. $12.95 ages 10 and up

"At work, William was having more and more trouble keeping his growing forging operation under wraps. He'd learned a lot about how to make the documents appear authentically old. His office looked like a chemistry lab. Bottles of inks, acids, emulsifiers, and watercolors; paintbrushes, boxfuls of pens and nibs; many different kinds of paper and parchment; candles, sealing wax, ribbons and erasing rubber."

There are eight stories here, each as entertaining and enlightening as the next. They are sure to find fans who long to know about some of the most famous hoaxes perpetrated over past centuries. Andreas Schroeder is an expert in the field and writes with authority, and a storyteller's knack for getting right to the heart of the action.

The treachery includes forgery, identity fraud, cheating and publicity meant to gain notoriety. The introduction sets the tone:

"Actually, Enricht had merely discovered that if you add a very cheap chemical called acetone to water, it will run an engine - for a while. Then it will destroy it. But before anyone found that out, he convinced not only Henry Ford but several other famous American businessmen to give him millions for his worthless invention."

In each of the eight chapters, we are introduced to the players, the scam as it plays out, and the aftermath of its discovery. It reads like a conversation the reader is having with the writer; capturing attention, inviting questions and offering answers. Scams have been run throughout history and this book provides a clear look at some of the most famous ones. As the stories are told, Remy Simard creates graphic illustrations to expand on the text and offer additional and familiar interest for young readers, while also allowing a quick glimpse at those who perpetrate such deception.

A table of contents, a list of books for further reading should one or more entries capture particular attention, a bibliography, and an index are each helpful. Gray information boxes also help to define further details. This is sure to lead some readers to further investigation, and to elicit questions that will further discussion concerning ethics, relationships, cruelty, gender and class. There is real value in sharing such a well-written and informative book.

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