"292. Wolves travel in what type of groupings? 293. Which date is thought by some to be most unlucky? 294. Which author wrote the Harry Potter series of books?"

If your answers to the above questions were “packs,” “Friday the Thirteenth,” and “J. K. Rowling,” then you may be as informed as the average fourth-to-sixth grader, at least according to author Barbara A. Pierce. She has gathered 401 questions, put them in numerical order in the first half of this easily readable book, and placed the answers in the second half. Questions encompass both school-related subjects—arithmetic, civics, literature, grammar, geography, history—and general knowledge of all sorts. “What do the fractions 1/2, 2/4, and 3/6 have in common?” is one example of the math posers. Geography questions include one that asks which state is a group of islands and which two continents share a common border. Historic events are also covered and include questions such as “Harriet Tubman helped slaves escape to freedom by means of a secret system called what?” and “Who was the first American astronaut to walk on the moon?” General knowledge is needed to answer questions about how many days are in a Leap Year, what a matador is, and how many sides a snowflake has.

The author of these engaging queries invites her readers to “be creative and have fun.” One can imagine handing the book to a curious young person as an intellectually challenging pastime in place of a computerized device. Reading, Pierce seems to believe, has not yet gone out of style. The thirst for knowledge, she argues, is not limited to academics, nor need it be boring. Though it would have been interesting to know more about how the author selected her questions, A Challenge of Common Knowledge fulfills its stated purpose as a collection of puzzlers to pique the interest of young minds.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

Return to USR Home