Philip Ardagh's Book of Howlers, Blunders and Random Mistakery by Philip Ardagh

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Philip Ardagh's Book of Howlers, Blunders and Random Mistakery by Philip Ardagh

Category: Children's Non-Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A primer for those copious collections of trivia and historical bloopers the shops are full of at Christmas. Buying this one, however, will not be a mistake.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: October 2009
Publisher: Macmillan's Children's Books
ISBN: 978-0330471725

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There's nought so queer as folk. From the idiot who broke into a car without realising his name and date of birth were clearly seen on his tattoo on CCTV, to the people who ordered someone to paint clothes on all the people in the Sistine Chapel - before others came along who decided the original had been better, and the people who dismissed The Beatles as never likely to make a name for themselves. We have long been a race of idiots.

This book could be called 'My First Trivia Book about Mistakes and Suchlike'. It is a very child-friendly introduction to the serried ranks of books about historical failures, goofs, misconceptions and so on, and while I own quite a few I am sure my collection would have grown even more rapidly had I been given this at the right age.

But even at my ripe age, I was learning new things. There's a great anecdote about the Mediterranean campaign in WWII, when the Allies forced Germany into making a mistake. There's a frustrated relative, smashing John Barbiroli's violin in annoyance, with no inkling he would become the first superstar conductor. I know the Seven Wonders, but didn't know the lyricist of The Wizard of Oz didn't.

To go back to this being child-friendly, here comes Krushchev calling Chairman Mao a boot, which is ruder still in Chinese - but we're not told exactly what it would refer to. Gerald Ratner and his self-defeating poisonous remarks even make a perfectly clean appearance.

But there's more to the book's range, for it goes beyond the paintings hung upside down, and the modern art thrown out as trash, to mistakes that aren't mistakes, and the correction of commonly-held mistakes - such as that regarding King Canute's actual intent.

There are a couple of errors of its own making, however, beyond the deliberate ones we're tasked with finding, and a typo or two. I don't know why there's an article about someone's bad science seeming to say bees can't fly, which formed an urban myth that lasted so briefly I hadn't even heard of it, for it seemed redundant to mention it. And what's with this nonsense about Sunday being the first day of the week? When Christians take their seventh day, of rest, on a Saturday, I might start to think Ardagh is correct. Until then he's wrong.

Philip Ardagh is brave enough to mention his own mistakes here - having written about a cat that changed gender by mistake across a series of books. He generally is a very good guide throughout, and while I found several of the footnotes a turn-off, the level of trivial knowledge here went beyond the call of duty, making this a book well worth browsing for all ages. It's a brisk read, with rather a lot of blank space, mediocre illustrations, and I would wish to improve some things, but there are only minor quibbles to be had.

Like I say, there is a welter of trivia here to absorb, from ancient history to last year, in a friendly manner for all. The final mistake I must mention is on the cover. It says it's Philip Ardagh's Book of Howlers, Blunders and Random Mistakery. It's not - it's mine, and were anybody of the 7-12 age range given a copy they would easily lay claim to it as theirs as well.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

We have several other reviews of Philip Ardagh books to browse, with the latest juvenile fiction we've met from him being The Far From Great Escape. As trivia books are ideal for dabbling and browsing, so to is our list of them.

Buy Philip Ardagh's Book of Howlers, Blunders and Random Mistakery by Philip Ardagh at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Philip Ardagh's Book of Howlers, Blunders and Random Mistakery by Philip Ardagh at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Philip Ardagh's Book of Howlers, Blunders and Random Mistakery by Philip Ardagh at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Philip Ardagh's Book of Howlers, Blunders and Random Mistakery by Philip Ardagh at Amazon.com.


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