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Father Knows Less Or: "Can I Cook My Sister?": One Dad's Quest to Answer His Son's Most Baffling Questions Hardcover – September 6, 2007

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From Publishers Weekly

Jamieson, city editor for the New York Times, whose seven-year-old son, Dean, has been in full-bore question mode for the past few years, decided that the best strategy for giving Dean the answers was also to give himself a challenge. He would get each answer from a real person who knows it by heart, whose very livelihood depends on the knowledge that Jamieson would present without sugarcoating or simplification. The result is a compendium of hilariously insightful questions from kids (age seven and under) with often insightfully hilarious answers from adults ranging from a doctor discussing the difference between somatic and neuropathic pain (What would hurt more: getting run over by a car or getting stung by a jellyfish?) to a dominatrix explaining Mach 1 air speed (If you don't hit anything with it, how does a whip make that noise?). Jamieson helpfully organizes the questions by theme into chapters, although his introductory anecdotes to each, while amusing, should have been drastically reduced to make room for more questions. Too bad this funny and fascinating book is coming out in September: it makes a perfect Father's Day gift for any dad whose child has ever asked, Why is the sky blue? or Why do we have eyebrows? or What does 'sexy' mean? (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

When Jamieson was a little boy, he had a lot of questions. He posed these to his parents as they occurred to him, and most times his folks did their best to satisfy his curiosity. But other times they were too busy or flummoxed, and they would make things up—thing adults found funny but were confusing to a little boy attempting to understand the world. As an adult, Jamieson became a journalist, and when his own son, Dean, reached the question-asking age, he decided to research the answers to the best of his ability. He went straight to the authorities on the subjects of Dean's inquiries (including celebs such as Yoko Ono and countless doctors and professors) and dutifully recorded their answers. Jamieson compiles the queries and responses in his small gem of a book, along with some personal essays on parenting. It is perfect for anyone—young or old—who ever wondered about such things as "Is a rainbow hot or cold?" or "Do nose hairs turn gray?" and wanted to know the answers—the real ones. Eberle, Jerry

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Adult; 1 edition (September 6, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399154426
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399154423
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,043,930 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Little Miss Cutey on September 6, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is a really clever book. Wendell Jamieson wrote this book because his son Dean asked him questions all the time that he couldn't answer. Was was stumped all the time. Out of his own curiosity, he started researching these questions and here are the results.
Now these questions aren't all your typical questions we adults might ask each other; - it's definately the stuff of a childs mind. For example, one question is Why is the road always wet in car commercials (I never would have thought of that myself)? Wendell went to the experts for this and found out that because the car is the star of the commercial, you have to make it look as good as possible and on a dry road (which is a flat grey color) the car won't appear as good as a wet road which appears black. All the colors of the cars pop. Wendell makes sure that the answers are simple enough for kids to understand and learn from.
Working in pharmacy, I really love the question about why doctors have messy handwritting. That's hillarious. (answer; because doctors are impatient, and would rather spend their time with the patient helping them, then writting scripts).
This is such an enjoyable book for almost anyone (although it's definately geared for kids). There are so many things you would never have thought to ask in here, but after reading this, I found that I don't think I could have answered even half of these questions correctly at all. A very fun read.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By SuzyMac on October 19, 2007
Format: Hardcover
"Why is the sky blue?" "Were Tyrannasaurus Rexes mean?" Kids ask a lot of questions. This book sets out to answer them. Divided into chapters by roughly by subject matter, this book covers questions about linguistics, sex, biology, physics, and more. While most questions are drawn from the author's own children and friends' children, some are posed by children whose parents found their way to his website.

A book like this runs the risk of preciousness (awwww, look at those cute things kids ask) and I can't say that the author avoided it. I do appreciate, however, that he didn't talk down to the kids, and went straight to the Experts. The author didn't shirk on experts, either, but lined up an impressive array of academics and policymakers who, in turn, didn't talk down either.

The main weakness of the book was the personal essays used to link each chapter to one another. While I appreciated the author trying to create a narrative link, I found them rather dull and self indulgent. The exception was the epilogue, which provided some necessary thoughtfulness and gravity.

All in all, this was a somewhat weightier "bathroom book". Easy, accessible snippets to be picked up and put down and not thought about in between reads.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Paper Pen VINE VOICE on October 29, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is an enjoyable book, especially for parents of young children. Some parts are funny, some educational and some show tender moments of discovery by a father and son learning from each other.

The book has an unusual format with author Wendell Jamieson mixing stories about his son, Dean, with attempts to answer the odd and offbeat questions of children. Jamieson collected questions from kids -- such as "When you have brain freeze, does you brain actually freeze?" or "Why is there war?" -- and got experts to answer them.

There's a bit of a hit and miss quality to the questions -- some are interesting and enlightening, some less so.

Jamieson's descriptions of raising his son will resonate with many parents. The anxiety that the author and his wife feel over Dean's early speech problems -- and their joy when he worked through the difficulties --- is the kind of thing that moms and dads will understand.

I also give the author points for honesty for describing how he lost his cool in an argument with his wife and broke the lock off their door.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Zoe Trader on September 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover
While the questions in Jamieson's book are definitely fun, enlightining, and clever, it's the personal essays preceding each set of questions that really make this book enjoyable to read. Jamieson crafts a beautifully written, funny, smart, memoir of his own journey of re-discovering - and explaining - his childhood self through his journey as a father. In his search to find the answers to his son's questions, he also goes on a quest back into his own childhood, and the wonderment of that world. When you read the essays through like a memoir, you find gently recurring themes such as his relationship with his father, September 11, growing up in New York, and of course, parenthood shared with his wife. Each theme becomes its own character in the book - growing and changing alongside Jamieson.

I read the essays first, and now I am going back to all the questions and answers, which take on a different meaning now that I know more about Jamieson's life and why finding these answers were so important.
The book is less for kids, and more for those who like a well-written, entertaining, engaging, memoir that seeks to find answers on so many different levels.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By E. L. Conley Jr on November 29, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Very funny book; very true to life; I can remember asking and answering many of the same & similar questions as a son 7 father. I think any Dad would get a kick out of receiving this book.
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