The Children’s Book Review | November 24, 2014
As the world authority on all that is unbelievable, we’re supper excited to chat with Ripley Publishing, an arm of Ripley Entertainment Inc. and the owner of the internationally famous trademark Ripley’s Believe It or Not! The company offers up its vast archives of the strange and unusual through books, ebooks, apps, television shows, tourist attractions, motion pictures, merchandise and the worldwide syndication of its daily newspaper cartoon. Ripley researchers across the globe are busy each day digging deep into the world of the odd and bizarre to compile enough fresh an exciting material to fill the Believe It or Not! series of books published each year.
The Children’s Book Review: We’re going to be discussing Fun Facts & Silly Stories: The Big One!, the newest addition to Ripley’s successful Fun Facts and Silly Stories series. Before we do, we’d love to hear about what goes on behind the scenes of creating the Fun Facts series. Go!
Ripley’s Team: The entire Ripley’s team is constantly looking for new and funny tales and stories to add to our books—and our Ripley’s readers love to submit crazy stories of their own. We take this massive, amazing collection of ideas and start to build a book. Our main goal is to make each book more fun and silly than our previous books, and it’s a goal our readers expect us to meet.
TCBR: How do the Ripley’s team members decide which fun facts and silly stories to place into each edition?
RT: Everyone finds as many facts and stories as they can. Then we get together and decide as a team which are the ones kids are going to find most strange and most silly!
TCBR: Once the facts and stories are selected for The Big One!, how long does the creative process take to make sure the information is presented in an engaging, accessible style?
RT: The key is often finding a great picture to go with the facts. A great picture will draw readers in and make them want to learn more about the topic. We spend a lot of time making sure that every fact has the best picture possible. The process will take months, as we want to ensure kids get a great book packed with cool information.
TCBR: There are loads of brightly colored photographs throughout. How is it decided which facts get their own single page or double page layout, and which facts get grouped together?
RT: Most of the time, the groups come together naturally. Many times team members finding similar stories. Sometimes a story will have multiple amazing photos. We try and keep a theme running through most double page layouts.
TCBR: How does The Big One! differentiate from the smaller annual editions?
RT: For one thing, the book’s larger format allows us to include some lists and category groups, such as ‘space,’ ‘food,’ or ‘crazy days.’ We also make The Big One! a bit more interactive—the challenge on pages 70 and 71 that asks readers to match the eyes to the correct animals is a great example. Finally, if there’s a specific topic we find especially funny or strange, like glow-in-the-dark animals or balloon costumes, The Big One! allows us to include even more pictures of that topic.
TCBR: Which new story in The Big One! does the majority of the team feel is the most crazy or extraordinary?
RT: There’s something shocking about finding out that astronauts launch their dirty underwear into space. Imagine a ring of underpants circling the Earth like the rings of Uranus!
TCBR: The Big One! includes some of Ripley’s funniest stories, but they have been rewritten for younger readers. What goes into the process of rewriting the more obscure or adult content to make it appropriate for children?
RT: Actually, instead of taking stories that are more for older readers and changing their focus to a younger audience, we specifically look for topics that children find interesting (animals are a big area of focus). We try and keep the stories in The Big One! light and fun, as we have a book (Reality Shock!) that contains more intense stories for older readers.
TCBR: Is there a story or particular fact that seems to get a bigger reaction than others from children that have already read The Big One!?
RT: Many kids are amazed (or grossed out) by Samuel Thuresson, on page 130, who had 23 snails on his face at the same time! Most of the kids we hear from don’t think they’d even let one crawl on their face!
TCBR: On pages 126 and 127, in a double page spread titled “Awesome Eaters,” we learn some gulp-worthy facts about the amount of specific foods that people have eaten in short periods of time, such as Jo LaRue who ate four pounds of pickles in five minutes. Does the Ripley’s team ever get inspired to attempt to hold their own food eating competitions—or any other silly and fun competitions for that matter?
RT: This Halloween, everyone here at Ripley’s got into the spirit of things by holding a companywide Halloween costume contest. Our team didn’t win any awards, but we dressed as some of our favorite board games, including Twister, Battleship, and Operation!
TCBR: Before we end, is there anything extra that you really want people to know about Fun Facts & Silly Stories: The Big One!?
RT: We hope kids have as much fun reading the book as we did putting it together!
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Read The Children’s Book Review‘s full review of Ripley’s Fun Facts & Silly Stories: The Big One!
Enter to win a copy of Ripley’s Fun Facts & Silly Stories: The Big One! Giveaway ends December 23, 2014, at 11:59 P.M. PST.
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