Kirsten's Reviews > Father Knows Less Or: "Can I Cook My Sister?": One Dad's Quest to Answer His Son's Most Baffling Questions

Father Knows Less Or by Wendell Jamieson
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Nov 21, 2009

really liked it
Read in January, 2008

We all know that kids ask a ton of questions and, often, ones we don’t really know the answers to. Sure, we might fake a response, make a joke out of the question or simply say, I don’t know. Author and New York Times editor Wendell Jamieson ups the ante for all adults.

Jamieson’s first book, Father Knows Less, takes questions from his son Dean (and many other curious kids) seriously by providing real answers from notable experts to kids’ craziest questions. The results are interesting, often funny, and sometimes shocking.

Take this example… “Dad, what would hurt more: getting run over by a car or getting stung by a jellyfish?” Jamieson takes the question to Dr. Sudhir Diwan, director of the Division of Pain Medicine at the NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. It turns out that Dean’s question has hit on the division between somatic (coming from tissues, bones, cartilage and muscles) and neuropathic pain (from irritation to the nerves). The conclusion? The jellyfish sting, because neuropathic pain can be generalized all over the entire body, with the pain itself possibly leading to shock and death.

Ouch - I would've fallen down on doing that kind of research.

Questions run the gamut with gems like: “What is the difference between joking and lying?” “Why do policemen like donuts?” And, they’re not all tame: “Do large animals need help to have sex?” And often philosophical: “Why do people buy things they don’t need?”

Jamieson is a wonderful writer, and (fortunately for the reader) the questions and answers, are embedded in a larger narrative describing Jamieson’s relationship with his son, his own memories of being an inquisitive kid, and his experience of fatherhood. This is a great book for parents with young kids, adults who work with children, or anyone with a bit of childish curiosity still intact.
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