Books

the story behind the book | kate tuttle

Helping young readers become little lie detectors

david wilson for the boston globe

“It was one of those ideas that was born directly from social media,” Ammi-Joan Paquette said. A series of tweets got her curious about the phenomenon of drop bears, predatory koalas that attack from treetops. “And then I learned it was a hoax, and I thought, whoa, this is such a cool idea!” 

An experienced writer of fiction for children, Paquette is also a literary agent. She reached out to one of her clients, Laurie Ann Thompson, who writes kids’ nonfiction, and a collaboration was born. In the middle-grade series “Two Truths and a Lie,” Paquette and Thompson explore various topics in chapters that include three stories – two true and one false – and invite readers to figure out which one is invented. Earlier books in the series looked at biology and history; their third installment, “Forces of Nature,” was just published. 

Writing about science – from chemistry to physics to space exploration – involved a lot of research, Paquette said. “It turned out to be quite a lot of work to come up with the fake stories!” Scientific advances come so quickly that it can be difficult to invent a plausible technology that isn’t (yet) real. “Sometimes we built off of hoaxes. Other times they were just cobbled together out of cool stuff that we were researching,” said Paquette.  

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At school visits, the authors like to quiz students to see if they can spot the fakes. Paquette said the classrooms buzz with energy. “You can see the kids comparing notes, thinking and reasoning. You can feel their excitement and awe at the truth of the natural world that we live in.” 

Paquette will be launching “Two Truths and a Lie: Forces of Nature” at 6 p.m. on Tuesday at Belmont Books. 

Kate Tuttle, a freelance writer and critic, can be reached at kate.tuttle@gmail.com.