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Did You Burp?


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Asking questions may seem like it comes naturally, but it's actually a learned social skill. How do questions and answers work? What makes a good question--and what makes a rude one? Who cares about questions?

About the Author

April Pulley Sayre has done enough school visits to know that question formation can be tricky for kids. Faced with a "hilarious cascade of non-questions, sort-of-questions, and what-was-that questions" from her young audiences, she realized that a book was in order. April is the award-winning author of more than 65 nonfiction books for children and adults, including Trout Are Made of Trees; Thank You, Earth; Best in Snow; The Slowest Book Ever; and the Geisel Honor book Vulture View. Each year she speaks to more than 15,000 students--who ask her lots and lots of questions. Leeza Hernandez is the illustrator of several books for children, including Eat Your Math Homework, Eat Your Science Homework, Eat Your U.S. History Homework, and Never Play Music Right Next to the Zoo. She is also the author and illustrator of Dog Gone! and Cat Napped! (Putnam).


What are questions, and what are they good for? On a beach, in a garden, visiting a museum, sitting in class with the president of the United States (a woman of color, as it happens), and elsewhere a racially diverse and compulsively inquisitive group of children demonstrate the ins and outs of productive questioning: "Are you the new teacher?" "Is this a veggie burger?" "Do you know if walruses have ears?" "Where do you park Air Force One?" Sayre describes how speakers use words such as "who" or "where" plus intonation to formulate questions in English (with a brief excursion into Spanish: "Where is the gerbil?" "?Donde esta el jerbo?"). In explaining that questions can express curiosity or care for others as well as simply act as requests for information, she also points out situational subtleties: "Did you burp, Madam President?" can be discomfiting in some contexts, for instance, but appropriate in, say, the course of a medical exam. She also suggests that "How" questions can "ask in a gentle way about feelings, tender topics, and complicated subjects," and that it's OK to make mistakes in the course of learning what works and when. Younger audiences, hard-wired to start asking questions from an early age, at last have a toolbox for formulating more and better ones. "So be brave," the author concludes. "Be bold. Ask questions!" Funny, thoughtful, and rewarding to read, no question.
-- Kirkus Reviews, starred review

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