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Monday, April 25, 2016

Whoppers: History's Most Outrageous Lies and Liars. Written by Christine Seifert. Zest Books, 2015. $19.99 ages 15 and up

"Cassie Chadwick would not have stood out in a crowd. She had mousy brown hair, a round face with no discernible chin, and a smug, thin-lipped smile. She looked a tiny bit like Mrs. Oleson from that old TV show Little House on the Prairie. She was just a plain girl from Ontario, Canada, but she was also a criminal mastermind. Cassie Chadwick's real name was Elizabeth "Betty" Bigley."

There are more than 40 stories documented of people who did not live an honest life. You will recognize some of the names, and be unfamiliar with others. Their stories are never boring and certainly will fascinate young adults, their parents and teachers.

The book is divided into four sections: Tall-Tale Tellers, Great Pretenders, Cheaters and Thieves, and Aliens, Ghosts and Creature Hoaxes. You know which one will attract your attention first. I started with Great Pretenders. Surprising to me, likely because I am reading the tales rather than being involved in their results, many people were gullible enough to believe what they were being told.

The writing is relaxed and great fun to read, while also being quite informative in terms of the historical settings and events. Not all whoppers were meant to dupe people. Some lies were told to ensure acceptance within the parameters and expectations of the time: a writer using a pen name, a woman wanting to fight when women were not allowed to be soldiers.

Each of the stories is quickly read, first identifying the liar in bold print, giving the date, describing the lie and the reason for it. Each new section begins with a quick introduction, a short quiz to see if any of the answers to the posed questions help identify the reader as a possible member of the named group. There are sidebars to provide additional items of interests concerning the topic being shared.
The author also pens a conclusion, then adds a long list for further reading and a section of references.

It's a very entertaining read!

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