Lightweight answers to FAQs about such subjects as birthdays, libraries, pets and road trips.
In question-and-answer format—with each one allotted a two-page spread and accompanied by Ritchie’s loose-line, pastel-colored artwork—Ripley fields a range of questions. They include how batter turns into cake and how birthday candles stay on fire, why hamsters run on wheels and why they stuff their cheeks with food, why you hear the sea in a seashell and why the ocean is salty. The answers are both fruity with humor and specific as to the immediate explanation, but there is not much meat on the bones to many of the answers, even for the intended age group. This is true especially when it comes to secondary clarifications that would deepen understanding, because these answers are going to elicit plenty more “hows” and “whys.” Some of the questions ignite the “duh” factor: “Why do we wrap presents? Because surprises are fun! And because wrapping makes gifts look extra special.” There is a modest sense of repetition: “Why are some books hardcover and some paperback? Because different readers like different kinds of books!” (nor does the extended response do any better a job of answering the question) and “Why are dogs different sizes? Different dogs for different folks!” Then come really sharp explanations as to why tarantulas have hair and why gasoline has a strong odor.
An uneven effort that is too often unhelpfully simplistic. (Nonfiction. 5-8)