A new book teaches young children about critical thinking and evidence. It’s not only educational but colorful and funny. Too many adults are like Henry, the little boy in the story who rejects clear evidence and persists in what he wants to believe.
Back in 2006 I wrote an article for Skeptical Inquirer titled “Teaching Pigs to Sing“. It described my frustrated efforts to introduce skeptical thinking principles to a general audience, and it included a fable about the Tooth Fairy. To understand the context, I hope you will click on the link and read the original article. It is not only funny but has been chosen by instructors as assigned reading for college classes in critical thinking. Kevin Howell, a fan in the UK who is a talented artist, liked the Tooth Fairy fable so much he thought it deserved to be turned into a children’s book, so he did just that. He adapted my text and illustrated it. It took several years and a lot of hard work, but our book There’s No Such Thing as the Tooth Fairy is now a reality.
The book is available for pre-order at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The official release date is August 8, 2022. They will use the presales as a measure of how many to print and stock across the country in their warehouses. The more they stock the quicker the delivery time.
If you don’t want to wait, it’s available for purchase now at Book Baby.
Henry is a little boy who has lost a tooth and is eagerly looking forward to getting his money from the Tooth Fairy. His older sister Harriet tells him there is no such thing as the Tooth Fairy. She doesn’t just tell him; she asks questions he can’t answer (like how does she get into his room and what does she do with all the teeth). She devises several clever experiments to convince Henry that it is their parents who put the money under his pillow. She shows Henry footprints, fingerprints, and video camera evidence. Henry stubbornly rejects every bit of evidence, even when his sister elicits a direct confession from the parents. First they told him there was a Tooth Fairy and now they say there isn’t; so either they were lying then or they’re lying now. He can’t believe anything they say, so he insists on going by what he knows. He knows the Tooth Fairy is real because she brings him money.
At the back of the book there is a bonus three-page introduction to how our brains work, how they can fool us, and the importance of evidence and critical thinking.
It is intended for ages 6-8 but even younger children will recognize that Henry is wrong and will laugh at his stubbornness and folly. And adults will appreciate the book more than children, because they will recognize skeptical details and references that mean nothing to young children. Every time I re-read the book, I notice another detail I had missed. A box is labeled “Dunning Kruger foil”. Henry is covering his stuffed rabbit’s eyes to keep it from looking at the photographic evidence. An ET is slumped against the wall. Henry has a book about the Bermuda Triangle. There are pictures of Carl Sagan and James Randi on the wall. Uri Geller is shown bending a spoon.
Don’t miss the very last page, where Henry wonders what his sister will think of his Invisible Dragon.
Mom and Dad could have a competition to see who can spot the most details with skeptic themes. They could start a family discussion about adults the children know who act like Henry. Does Uncle Bob refuse vaccines? Does Aunt Martha refuse to wear a seatbelt? Does Grandmother swear that astrology is true or that homeopathy and therapeutic touch really worked for her? Is Cousin Morris taking ivermectin to ward off COVID-19?
Every day I see more Henrys who ignore clear evidence and persist in believing what they want to believe because it benefits them in some way. They rationalize, cry “fake news”, make up unlikely excuses, and even invent complicated conspiracy theories to protect their cherished beliefs. I needn’t give examples; I’m sure you have run across plenty of Henrys yourself.
Henry’s sister Harriet is a great example of a scientist, a skeptic, and a critical thinker. Henry is a perfect example of…something else. We need more Harriets and fewer Henrys.
Kevin and I did our best to keep the cost of the book down: only $14.99. We’re not looking to make a profit, but we had to spend our own money to self-publish and we’re hoping to get some of that money back. We think the book is a very important addition to the skeptical literature for children. A number of prominent skeptics agreed and wrote favorable comments.
It can be incredibly difficult to change a belief, especially when it was based on emotion and superstition rather than on reason and evidence. This book promises to be a valuable tool. I urge you to buy a copy (or preferably several copies) to give to children you know who might benefit. And even to certain adults who might benefit even more! And consider donating copies to schools and libraries. Please help us get the next generation off to a good start. Thanks!
This article was originally published in the Science-Based Medicine Blog.