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Reading Rockets resources at Start with a Book provide an abundance of book recommendations and great ideas for pairing fiction and nonfiction to engage kids and help them make connections between what they read and their own lives.

portrait of children's author Erica Perl

Here we’re excited to share a wonderful new spin on bringing fiction and nonfiction together. It comes from award-winning author Erica S. Perl (opens in a new window), and it will have everyone laughing and learning together. Erica loves to encourage creativity and curiosity and her new book Truth or Lie: Sharks! (opens in a new window) does both! You can find even more laughs with Erica and her riotous picture books including Chicken Butt! (opens in a new window), Goatilocks and the Three Bears, (opens in a new window) and Ferocious Fluffity (opens in a new window). Her novel The Capybara Conspiracy (opens in a new window) will have you both laughing and racing to as many nonfiction resources as you can find about capybaras!

close-up of woman's feet wearing shark socks

Did you know that sharks have feet? Yup, big feet! So, they need big shoes and really big socks. What do they do with those big feet of theirs? Go disco dancing, of course!

Okay, fine. None of those things are true. But I did learn a lot of true things about sharks while researching my new book, Truth or Lie: Sharks! (opens in a new window) For example, did you know there are over 400 different kinds of sharks? That’s true, really!

However, as the title suggests, Truth or Lie: Sharks! is not ALL true. This book contains some total fabrications — otherwise known as lies — masquerading as true statements. It is up to kid readers to “spot the lie” and tell fact from fiction. The format is designed to help kids develop their critical reading skills. This way, after they decode each sentence, there’s a fun new challenge: figuring out if what they just read is true or not.

Truth or Lie: Sharks book cover

One of the things I’m learning from sharing this book is that kids love to feel like experts. After I read Truth or Lie: Sharks! aloud, there’s always a sea of eager hands in the air. I like learning new shark facts from my young friends. But you know what I like even more? Seeing kids invent their own silly shark lies — like the tall tale about shark footwear, which I heard from a second grader last week.

Now, wait a second, you might say. Are you really suggesting that kids should be encouraged to lie? In this case, yes! Because, as I explain to kids, this kind of truth-bending is a form of fiction writing. It is a way of using your imagination and creativity. Plus, it’s fun!

Want to play your own game of “Truth or Lie” with your kids? It’s easy. Here’s what you do:

DIY Truth or Lie

  1. Read Truth or Lie: Sharks! with your child, along with a selection of other non-fiction books about sharks. Some you might try are: Hungry Hungry Sharks (opens in a new window), Shark Lady (opens in a new window), and Neighborhood Sharks (opens in a new window).
  2. Point out and discuss statements in these books that are true, but seem false at first (and, in the case of Truth or Lie: Sharks, statements that are false but seem true!). This reinforces the critical reading process. It also helps develop your child’s ability to reason and explain the logic behind choices.
  3. With your child, brainstorm a list of three totally true statements about sharks.
  4. Then — here’s the most fun part — encourage your child to make up one totally false statement about the subject. Silly is of course fine. But if your child really wants to be tricky, remind your child to try to make it sound true (hint: sharks in socks will not fool most people!)
  5. With your child, write all four statements down and number them one through four.
  6. Encourage your child to share the list with family members and friends to see if they can “spot the lie.”
  7. Don’t be surprised if your child wants to play this game again and again!

Another place to hunt for shark facts? Your local aquarium or zoo. I visited the Baltimore Aquarium while I was researching Truth or Lie: Sharks!

Erica Perl looking through shark jaws at Baltimore Aquarium

Hungry for more? In July, there will be a new Truth or Lie book on….


Which might, or might not, have worn socks.

About the Author

Join children’s literacy consultant Rachael Walker and many of the authors, parents, and educators she’s met and worked with to talk about how books have changed their lives, how to bring books to life for young readers, and how to enrich kids’ lives with good books. 

Publication Date
June 12, 2019