More Information Than You Require

This has to be the funniest book I’ve read in years! I love it when people make things up. I love it even more when they are funny and nerdy and have a hilarious sense of the absurd. John Hodgman is like me in that he knows a lot about a bunch of things. In addition, though, he is much funnier and better at making things up. Me, I merely claim to be a ninja sometimes. This Hodgman person knows his outrageous fabrication.

This book has been my companion on the bus, where people either a) crane their necks to see what I am reading, or b) move away from the giggling woman with the book.  It has been my bedtime reading, as I giggle my way to sleep while the cat can’t get comfortable on my shaking torso. Good thing E’s in Whistler this week. I’d be driving him crazy with my laughing.

The best place for this book, though, is my classroom.

Because I am addicted to reading, I generally read two or three books a week, so just about every student sees I have a different book every time they come to my class.  Many of them like to examine the books, ask about them, poke their noses in to read a paragraph. It’s not what the boss has in mind, but I’m reinforcing the fact that reading is interesting. Hell, I’ll even read for a few minutes as students are working. It shows them that this is something fun, that people choose to do.

More Information Than You Require goes beyond my usual modeling approach. I start to giggle when I read it, which makes the kids ask questions, and from there, they usually cluster around me while I point out the absurdities.

“Look at this! He has made up seven HUNDRED names for the mole-men, which are a race of people he made up who live underground!”

They bend over the page. “Hey, there’s one called Mr. Fairfax Stumpyfingers! That’s not even REAL!”

“None of it’s real,” I say. “He just makes it up!”

“How can he do that? Is he allowed?” they keep asking.

“Of course! Making it up is what we call fiction! Is fiction illegal? Are the fiction police going to come and arrest JK Rowling for inventing a wizard boy? Are they putting The Very Hungry Caterpillar in caterpillar jail?”

Eventually they get back to work, but not before giggling at a rain of frogs in Virginia, Mr. Herodotus Infected Earhole, and the nicknames of past presidents.

I always want my students to understand that reading is for fun, not just instruction.  It’s not about passing the test as much as it is enjoying the book. This book has done that for a wider swathe of them than any other I’ve taken to work.

So, thank you to John and Arwen, who bought this book on a giddy child-free afternoon. And thank you, John Hodgman, for making things up and championing both the axolotl and the okapi in one book. From one nerd to another, the coypu would have meant a hat trick.

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