10 Fun Facts I’ve Learned from Books

I loved this post over at Shae Has Left the Room last week, about the trivia tidbits and larger facts that various young adult authors learned from their childhood reads. Inspired by the complete list of books I read in seventh grade that resurfaced in my life around the same time, I thought this would be a fun recollection.

1. How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell taught me that you can cut a worm in half and, instead of killing them, you will then have two live, mini worms who are no worse for wear and can go on their merry separate ways.

2. My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George taught me that liver is a good source of a ton of iron and that you need iron in your diet or else your body will start failing you. (I considered, for a short few moments, of trying liver for this reason, and then decided that I would just eat more greens instead. Therefore, this book made me eat my vegetables! Books are magic!)

3. The War Within by Carol Matas taught me that Jews were persecuted during the Civil War. General Grant’s General Order #11 commanded all Jews to evacuate the territory for violating trade regulations; they lost their homes, their businesses, everything. Not only did I learn this, but, several years later, so did my eleventh grade history teacher. I brought up this fact during a class discussion and he told me I was incorrect and making it up. That night, I went to the public library, checked out the book again, and brought it to school the next day. The teacher was surprised to read the order, recorded word-for-word in the appendix. (Available to read on the Amazon preview, if you’re interested.)

4.The Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind taught me that, apparently, getting stabbed in the kidneys is the most painful way to die. So painful that you can’t scream, so it’s therefore an effectively quiet murder tactic. I shared this fact while my two new college roommates and I were tucked into our beds having late night get-to-know-you sleepover talk during freshmen orientation week. My roommates like to retell the story that they were afraid to fall asleep that night, for fear that I might stab them in the kidney’s while they slept. I swear, though, that the fact applied to the conversation, somehow! I wasn’t randomly sharing secret murderous thoughts. Though it probably was a bad first impression, since they didn’t know me at all yet. Anywho, everyone survived, we all became amazing friends, we actually roomed together all four years (so they must have felt safe), and they understand the strange quirky directions of my brain now.

5. Tangerine by Edward Bloor taught me that being legally blind didn’t necessarily mean you couldn’t see. I had thought blindness always meant complete darkness before then.

6. The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot taught me that people, for fashion sake, have been known to shave off their eyebrows and get fake, perfectly-shaped eyebrows tattooed on in their place. This is a thing people do! [shudder] Oh, Grandmere.

7. The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare taught me that whether or not a girl could swim used to be a test for witchcraft. I recall being very alarmed, asking my mother what would happen to the girls who couldn’t swim. “They would drown. But they were ‘proven innocent’ so her name was cleared, even though she was dead.” I also recall thinking this was ridiculous because I was an excellent swimmer…thanks to swim lessons, not magic.

8. The Invisible Inc. series by Elizabeth Levy taught me that you can make invisible ink out of lemon juice and then heat it over a burner to be able to read it! (This led to many, parent-supervised experiments.)

9. Together Apart by Dianne E. Gray taught me the tradition behind brightly-colored front doors: So that, in the middle of a blizzard, lost souls can find those doors to warmth and safety in a sea of white. (Lesson learned: I will ALWAYS have a brightly-colored door! Even if my area of the world is not prone to ginormous snow storms. Just because.)

10. The Dear America/Royal Diaries/I Am America series taught me that: Hawaii had a royal family before it became a state, that children used to be captured by Native American tribes and raised as their own until they happily assimilated, that there was a terrible assimilation process Native American children endured generations later in Indian Schools, and that the Romanov royal family’s children used to roller skate around the palace halls.

What fun facts have books taught you?

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Please Sir, Can I Have Some MORE Historical Fiction?

Having been neck-deep in all the historical research and hundreds of old black-and-white photographs I needed to write my book over the past eight months, my love of history has been refreshed. I’m now constantly craving good old TCM films; episode marathons of Downton Abbey, Vegas, and American Pickers; and as much historical fiction as I can get my hands on. I’ve become obsessed with some other history-related things, including Corsets, Cutlasses, and Candlesticks, a blog about historical fiction writing by a team of YA historical fiction authors (I look forward to their posts every Monday and Wednesday!) and Stuff You Missed in History Class, a podcast from the How Stuff Works website that is chock-full of interesting and obscure stories, legends, and shipwrecks, perfect for the daily commute. (I’ve blown through more than 100 podcasts in the past two months. They’re so good!)

If you’re into historical fiction too, I’d definitely recommend some of the ones I’ve read most recently:

5. The House of Velvet and Glass by Katherine Howe. Titanic, Boston, WWI, 1800s Shanghai, Spiritualism, opium, and crystal balls. What more could you ask for??

4. Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood. An alternative history, so not for the historical fiction purist, but an authentic Puritan New England feel, complete with magic and witch hunts.

3. Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier. This is the first in a trilogy (the second one is really good too!) set in contemporary London with a heavy bit of time travel to the eighteen century. Awesome attention to the detail of period clothes, too!

2. Dreams of Joy by Lisa See. Set in 1950s Communist China. Starvation, propaganda, and a few love story plot lines–you’ll never look at a grain of rice the same way again.

1. Grave Mercy by R. L. LaFevers. Set in 1485 Brittany, this is historical fantasy at its best, complete with a convent of assassin nuns, political betrayals, a love story, and some Middle Age mysticism.

Do you have any other favorite historical fiction books to recommend?