A Really Good Question: Surprising Answers to Some Interesting Questions

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A Really Good Question

Reviewed by L. T. bas Noah

This book is an adolescent browser’s paradise which captures the reader with 181 engaging questions about the world we live in, with photos and fun illustrations accompanying each of the simple, one-to-three-paragraph answers. Most of the questions relate to scientific topics, such as Question 41: “What causes oil to burn?” and Question 156: “What is Radar?” Some delve into history: Question 24: “What was the Boer War? And who were the Boers?” Question 16: “Who invented the first postage stamp and when?” Question 141: “When were books chained to desk and shelves, and when did this practice end?”

In many cases, the author phrases questions to highlight unexpected aspects of familiar objects or phenomena: Question 57: “Can flowers tell time?” Question 76: “Are babies born without teeth?” Question 117: “What connection is there between elephants and plastics?”

While targeted toward juvenile readers with a solid vocabulary and some prior knowledge, the book may also appeal to younger children, listening as questions and answers are read, while they examine the many thoughtfully selected images accompanying each topic. Even adults will likely discover many new things. (For instance, did you know that the first toothbrush was invented by the Chinese, and that unlike frogs, toads have no teeth?)

Connecting science with Torah

Parents will be pleased to find, sparsely sprinkled throughout the book in subtle but significant ways, affirmations of Torah values. For instance, Question 45 asks: “Why do we breathe heavily after jogging or running?” At the end of the three-paragraph answer, the author includes: “Thanks to Hashem’s mercy, the pace of our breathing becomes normal again after a few minutes have passed.” Refreshingly absent are unscientific conjectures about “evolution” and the age of the universe.

This wide-ranging book stimulates curiosity, and also awe at the intricacy, beauty and interconnectedness present throughout G-d’s creation. Its true spirit may be best represented by closing statements in the answer given to Question 35. “How does yeast make dough rise?”: “What an amazing process! What a wonderful world Hashem [G-d] has created!”