From the Trojan horse to fake news, scams have run rampant throughout history and across the globe. Some con artists do it for fun, others for profit. . . and every once in a while, a faker saves the world.
In this era of daily online hoaxes, it’s easy to be caught off-guard. Fakers arms kids with information, introducing them to the funniest, weirdest, and most influential cons and scams in human history. Profiles of con artists will get readers thinking about motivation and consequence, and practical tips will help protect them from falsehoods. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is–except in the case of this book!
Potentially Sensitive Areas: None
Booklist (October 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 3))
Grades 5-8. In a world where tricksters are always in the news, even as the word fake is bandied about indiscriminately, a book exposing cons and making young readers aware of how to approach schemes is essential. Luckily, Wood’s nonfiction title is also an entertaining read, with chapters divided up in ways that separate and link everything from Ponzi schemes to spoon benders to mass-media hoaxes. Any type of deceptive con one can think of is included. Want to know about shell games? It’s covered. War tricks like the Trojan horse? It’s here. Cartoonlike pictures emphasize the fun in funny business, slyly featuring everything from sleight-of-hand hieroglyphs to chunky, pizza-eating rats. Extensive chapter notes and resources, as well as a long index, lend the work gravitas. As the author points out, even computer-savvy young people are easily deceived, and she wants readers to not be “one of the guys and gals getting gotten.” If they take this book as a guide, they should have a head start in preparedness.
Kirkus Reviews (September 1, 2018)
In this lively look at the history of human trickery, Wood takes readers on a tour of cons, frauds, hoaxes, impersonations, and scams. The swindle is as old as history. The shell game, once called cups and balls, originated in ancient Rome. One example of a newer type of fakery, the “long con,” is the pyramid scheme, and Wood recounts the scams used by two of its most infamous practitioners, Carlo Ponzi and Bernie Madoff. No book about fakery would be complete without a discussion of P.T. Barnum’s many famous humbugs. Wood also reveals the tricks behind such carnival games as the ring toss, ball toss, and guessing games. Scientists have fallen prey to or helped perpetrate such hoaxes as the Rabbit Woman, the Lying Stones, and the Piltdown Man, but a long time passed before skeptical scientists were convinced the platypus was not a hoax. Deceptive practices in medicine have undoubtedly caused many injuries and deaths, but Wood recounts one medical hoax that saved dozens of Italian Jews when doctors in a Rome hospital convinced Nazis the Jews were afflicted with a dangerously infectious disease called Syndrome K and better kept in quarantine. These and more are all covered in lively prose that’s delivered with a healthy sense of irony. Clark’s full-color cartoons match Wood’s tone and are augmented by archival illustrations and photographs. A delightfully revealing look at scammers and their scams. (further reading, source notes, index) (Nonfiction. 10-14)
About the Author
H. P. Wood is the granddaughter of a mad inventor and a sideshow magician. Instead of making things disappear, she makes books of all shapes and sizes. She has written or edited works on an array of topics, including the history of the Internet, the future of human rights, and the total awesomeness of playing with sticks.
She lives in Connecticut with a charming and patient husband and a daughter from whom she steals all her best ideas. Her website is www.hpwood.net
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