Bookworm: Weird laws and science for kids

Terri Schlichenmeyer

“How to Become a Federal Criminal: An Illustrated Handbook for the Aspiring Offender”

  • By Mike Chase
  • c. 2019. Atria
  • $26, $35 Canada; 320 pages

The minute you woke up this morning, you knew today was going to be different. No business-as-usual for you this afternoon. No same-old, same-old schedule-keeping. Nope, today, you’ll do something you’ve never done before and with “How to Become a Federal Criminal” by Mike Chase, you’ll know exactly where to start.

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So, you’ve decided to embrace a life of crime. Ehh, it happens, and without much effort. It’s not like Congress hasn’t “passed thousands of federal criminal statues” over the past couple centuries, so there are plenty of illegalities to choose from.

“How to Become a Federal Criminal: An Illustrated Handbook for the Aspiring Offender” author Mike Chase.

All you have to do is to pick where you’re going to start.

Easy-peasy, you can break a lot of laws by mail. Donning a USPS uniform, for one, is forbidden unless you’re an actor. You’re not allowed to disguise your junker as a mail truck. And hey, you’d best warn grandma that reusing uncancelled stamps can land her in the slammer.

Here’s some good news: you can love animals and still break the law in a humane and non-violent way. Bartering with a flamingo is a no go, for instance, as is riding a manatee. Federal law prohibits feeding out-of-state garbage to your pigs, unless you cook it first. And if you’re coming from anywhere overseas, you must first quarantine your llama while you’re visiting your mama.  

You can go to prison for carrying $26 in pennies or nickels into a foreign country. Be prepared for trouble if you misspell “catsup” or try to sell the stuff watered-down. Try – just try – to sell canned pineapple in the wrong dimension and get away with it. Go ahead, see what happens by getting “annoyingly drunk” at the U.S. Mint. Double-dog dare you to hold your kid over a moat, make funny sound effects on a CB radio, or sell marbles without clearly labeling them as such. Oh, and don’t report lost dynamite; you may as well just turn yourself in …

Funny? Yes, but what you’ll find in “How to Become a Federal Criminal” is also dead-serious.

“How to Become a Federal Criminal: An Illustrated Handbook for the Aspiring Offender” by Mike Chase

Indeed, these are real statutes that are only sometimes enforced by the government, but who would test the waters? Not criminal defense lawyer and author Mike Chase, who also explains in his book how to read a statute, what the symbols mean, where to find them, and which arm of government can pass them. He even offers a bit of history, pointing out that the Constitution only mentions “three crimes of federal concern … ” and that you’re way more likely to land in the pokey for breaking a state law.

“Unfortunately,” says Chase, “if you’re hoping to learn all the ways that you could possibly become a federal criminal in America, this book can’t help you.”

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It’s impossible, he goes on to say, to even count the number of federal crimes but this book will surely get you started on a life of lawlessness. If you’re feeling like a rebel this week or if you just gotta laugh, “How to Become a Federal Criminal” could be the little difference you need.

“Little Kids First Big Book of Science”

  • By Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld
  • c. 2019, National Geographic Kids
  • $14.99, $19.99 Canada; 128 pages

Summer has barely started. You’ve only been out of school a few days but you’re already running out of things to do. Riding your bike is so over. You’re tired of playing Tag. Even video games are getting old so maybe it’s time for something different. You need “Little Kids First Big Book of Science” by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld.

“Little Kids First Big Book of Science” by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld.

There’s a whole big summer ahead of you, so how are you going to fill it? You could go to the pool again. You could play in the yard. You could run up and down the sidewalk for no reason. Or you could have some fun with science!

No kidding, science is easy. If you go outside, look at a tree, listen to birds, smell the flowers, and have an ice cream cone, you’re using science. Next, all you need is curiosity, a notebook and pencil, and someone to help you when you need help.

If you’re a kid who loves animals, you’ll love science, too. Scientists study creatures as small as bugs, or as big as whales. They learn about the human body but they also know about rocks. Scientists look at trees, fish, plants, and dinosaurs. They know about the environment and the planets and stars. Since “there are so many kinds of living things” and natural elements on earth and beyond, a scientist “usually chooses one” focus, but you can choose to study anything that runs, swims, grows, crawls, or just sits. Science is a pretty big subject!

If you want to learn to be a good scientist, you’ll need to know how to do experiments, which are like tests that answer questions. Where do insects live, for instance? What happens when you boil water? How is it possible that airplanes can fly? Visit your neighborhood. Look for cool ecosystems while on vacation. Take a peek at the rocks you’re walking on and look up at the sky.

Maybe you can predict the weather.

Uh-oh. Maybe you’ve learned some fun science!

School has been out for how long? and you’re already hearing how there’s “nothing to do.” That’s the time to have this book tucked away; “Little Kids First Big Book of Science” offers a great cure for boredom.

Here’s a book that pushes STEAM without making your kids’ imagination run out of steam. Author Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld carefully attracts children to several branches of science here by pointing out that biology, etymology, geology, and ecology are enjoyable, easy, and that, in fact, most children are probably already using science every day anyhow. For a kid, that makes the subject less scary.

There are activities that will get your child thinking in new directions here, experiments to try, and lots of pictures to spark new ideas. Best of all, this is a book that your 6-to-10-year-old can enjoy alone, or together with you; the activities invite more experiments and you’ll want to join in on a summer filled with learning, so get “Little Kids First Big Book of Science” and get started.

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The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.