April Helms's Reviews > Oh, Say Did You Know?: The Secret History of America's Famous Figures, Fads, Innovations Emblems

Oh, Say Did You Know? by Fred DuBose
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's review
Sep 03, 2011

it was ok
bookshelves: history, nonfiction, young-adult
Read in September, 2011

I'm a bit mixed on this book. On one hand, it's very easy to read and entertaining. There are a lot of neat stories in it about our various historical figures, as well as some not-so-well known people. It is well organized by topic. It's a very quick read. But a few things bothered me. One, there was no index, no list of sources (if there is one, I somehow missed it). After this, I'm relying on memory; it's been a while since I've read the book. But there was a reference to Thomas Edison, how he made a sort of crude brief movie (was it the Kinetoscope?) about a war battle (I think it was the Boer war)-- except the whole battle had been staged. The attitude of the writing was ah, but who cares if Edison "gilded the lily," since he made so many wonderful inventions. Basically, the book excuses him for dishonesty because he was successful. That's the impression I was left with and it left a bad taste in my mouth, especially since this book seems aimed at older grade school children. It seems there were a couple other bits of information that didn't sound right to me, but I don't recall what those might have been, and I forgot to write it down. There also was, I remember, a missed opportunity: on one page, it mentions about the first dishwashing machine, invented by Josephine Cochrane, was first seen at the Chicago World Fair in 1893. On the very next page, it mentions the Ferris Wheel -- but makes no mention that it, too, was a part of the same World Fair (indeed, it was one of the highlights, created to outdo the Eiffel Tower, which had been created as the entrance arch for the 1889 World Fair. I highly recommend The Devil in the White City for anyone wanting more information on the 1893 World Fair). While I understand the book was crafted to be a fast read, with very short stories, this omission seemed odd to me.

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