c.2019, National Geographic Kids
$9.99 ($13.99 Canada​)
255 pages

By the time you started first grade, you already knew your ABCs.

You started second grade knowing how to read at least a little bit, and each year brought new knowledge and a new start. By now, hey, you’re doing school like a boss.

Still, everybody’s gotta start somewhere and in the new book “Surprising Stories Behind Everyday Stuff” by Stephanie Warren Drimmer, the same goes for your favorite things in life.

The paper you’re holding, the chair you’re perched on, the shoes you’re wearing — they didn’t just magically appear, you know. Nope, each one of them has a story, so look around and be prepared to find out more …

Start with your toys. Would you believe that ancient Egyptians played with rings that resembled our modern Hula Hoops? Or that there was a time when marbles were for adults only? Or that the TV jingle for today’s Slinky is the same jingle your grandma heard when she was a kid?

And what about your food? More than 90 percent of American homes have peanut butter on the shelf somewhere, and kids in the U.S. will eat about 1,500 PB&Js before they leave high school. Get this: American soda makers once offered soda in flavors like turkey and Brussels sprouts.

If you want to start in the morning with a look around, then how about your jams? Back in the early 1800s, PJs were worn all the time: at night, to sleep in; and when the wearer got dressed for the day, jammies became underwear tucked in beneath everyday clothes. The pajamas we’re familiar with came from India in the very late 1800s and by the 1920s, almost everybody had them.

Once upon a time, high heels were just for men, as were pockets in clothing; women didn’t have pockets — they had pocketbooks. A woman invented windshield wipers in 1902 but it wasn’t until 1916 that her idea caught on. Clapping for approval, saluting a superior officer, shrugging your shoulders all had their unique beginnings. And hair dye? It’s an ancient product but not very long ago, using it was an embarrassment …

Remember the days when your child asked incessant questions, whys, and whats? Now, he tends to learn things by himself, and “Surprising Stories Behind Everyday Stuff” can be one of the ways he does it.

Look around at some of the things surrounding your child, and author Stephanie Warren Drimmer has included many of them in this book. Here, kids will get the scoop on those physical items like tools and food, as well as sports, gestures, and culture, all with an eye toward entertaining and surprising them with little-known truths and tales. Every chapter is accompanied by full-color pictures and quick facts that hold the subjects together like chewing gum (which is, coincidentally, one of the entries here).

For curious adults who want a super-light, fun book to browse, “Surprising Stories Behind Everyday Stuff” is it. You’ll like this book — but really, it’s meant for your 8- to 12-year-old, so let her start it first.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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