Interview: Reading, Learning & Exploring with Ripley’s Believe It or Not!
The Children’s Book Review
Published: October 1, 2013
Ripley Publishing is the publishing arm of Ripley Entertainment Inc., the owner of the internationally famous trademark Ripley’s Believe It or Not! as world authority on all that is unbelievable. 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 and exciting material to fill the Believe It or Not! series of books published each year.
TCBR is incredibly lucky to get the inside scoop of what it takes to put these impressive compendiums of wacky facts together; in particular, Fun Facts & Silly Stories 2!
Bianca Schulze: “For over 90 years Ripley Entertainment Inc. has entertained visitors around the world, with over 90 exciting attractions in 10 countries, along with best-selling books, a network television series in more than 70 countries, and the longest continuously published newspaper comic in history. Cartoonist and adventurer Robert Ripley started it all in 1918 when he began drawing his daily feature.” What does it mean to the Ripley’s team to continue the late Robert Ripley’s legacy and make it accessible for young readers?
Ripley’s: It is a dream job really! The team at Ripley’s all found themselves here because something about the wonder and mystery of the brand appealed to them. We love finding new and extraordinary people, objects and animals, and digging up facts that ordinary people would never even think about. Bringing the sense that the world is still full of crazy and odd things to young readers is amazing and we really hope they love reading about them as much as we enjoyed putting everything together.
BS: What importance do you think the “Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Kids” series of books provides for children?
R: The series provides a fun and exciting way to learn about the world and all of the strange and extraordinary things in it. These books really reach out to children who don’t seem interested in reading. Reluctant readers won’t think of reading as a chore when learning about crazy animals, amazing feats of strength or dexterity, and other, just plain weird facts. We have found that the colorful features with short blurbs/facts found in the book are appealing to young kids and encourages reading and learning.
BS: The latest Ripley’s book, Fun Facts & Silly Stories 2, features large, colorful type and fantastic photos that educate and inform in a humorous style. Incredible and unbelievable facts are supplemented by explanatory stories and information throughout. Is there a particular fact in this latest installment of the series that the Ripley’s team is most excited about?
R: We are most excited about the fact that there seems to be a never ending supply of the weird and quirky. Our favorites include the pig race with knitted jockeys on their backs, and the artist who goes around London painting pictures on old chewing gum—its a great way to take something that is considered trash and turn it into a beautiful thing to look at.
BS: Have you heard from many young readers as to which fact seems to spark the most interest? Which fact do they seem to consider the most fun?
R: Our young readers really like learning about all of the crazy animal habits that are showcased in the book. Since these animals aren’t found in most people’s backyards, they get a kick out of learning about all the weird habits and odd facts.
BS: Which fact are they finding to be the silliest?
R: I think the fans thought the silliest thing was all the wacky beards showcased in the European Beard and Moustache competition. Those guys really have some strange looking facial hair!
BS: Some of the facts left me wanting more information. Is the idea or the aspiration behind the series to get young minds thinking outside of the box? Or is this just a rewarding extra to plain and simple amusement?
R: I think it’s a little of both. Ripley’s is about discovery and exploration, and our books encourage both kids and adults to indulge their love of the weird and extraordinary. For Fun Facts & Silly Stories, we find that smaller tidbits of information appeals to the targeted age group. It gets them thinking about more than their world, encourages them to ask questions and presents an easy and fun learning experience.
BS: Is there a formula behind the research for discovering and then verifying the facts that are presented in the book? Do you scour the Internet and then wait for e-mails and letters from people around the world?
R: It is definitely a combination. Our brand is well known as procurers of the odd and extraordinary, so we get thousands of emails, letters and packages from fans all over the world. A lot of research also goes into the process—we follow up on articles and rumors found through the internet, and visit a lot of auctions.
BS: I imagine that you come across some pretty “far-out” facts and events. How do you decide what to put in the book and what to leave out? And how do you decide what is appropriate for young readers and what is not?
R: It is a judgment call—we know what books we would like to publish each year, and divide our finds amongst them. It is usually pretty evident what should go in our children’s books and what should go in our Annual collections or another series.
BS: If you could name one emotion that the Ripley’s team collectively feels about Fun Facts & silly Stories 2, what would it be?
R: Proud. We feel that this series really encourages reading, learning and exploring. All qualities that help a child become the best they can be.
BS: What should readers expect to see from Ripley’s next?
R: We are very proud of our newest best selling book Dare To Look! Each year we put our annual book, filled with the weirdest and most extraordinary facts, stories and pictures that we can find. Dare To Look! has so many amazing stories, each time I look through it, I find out something new. Both kids and adults will have trouble staying away for long!
Read our review of Fun Facts & Silly Stories 2.
Add this book to your collection: Fun Facts & Silly Stories 2
For more information on Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, visit: www.ripleys.com
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