This tongue-in-cheek “kids’ guide” to the secret knowledge of grown-ups provides children with an insider’s look at an ongoing conspiracy of parental lies and deceit regarding commonly enforced rules such as eating one’s vegetables, combing one’s hair, and not blowing bubbles in one’s milk. The book is artfully designed as a top-secret confidential file folder, filled with crumpled typewritten messages and intricately cut paper illustrations. Each of the parental “Rules” is followed by its “Official Reasons” and then “The Truth,” that is, why the rule really exists. The origin of each of the top-secret truth files is logged as to its discovery location, date, time, and the details as to how the infiltration took place.
Published in 1998, The Secret Knowledge of Grown-Ups is a very much a one-of-a-kind children’s book. Intended for children only, adults will be uninterested in the book’s contents because, of course, the information contained within is common knowledge among grown-ups. For example, although obviously it’s true that you can break your bed or get hurt jumping on your mattress, the real reason you shouldn’t do it is because you might wake it up.
Adults all know that mattresses are actually woolly creatures raised on farms in Scotland that, upon reaching adulthood, fall into a deep period of hibernation. They are then rounded up, sorted by size, and sold to stores. These modern, domestic mattresses are difficult to awaken, unlike their feral ancestors, which were awakened much more easily, and none too happily. Nevertheless, jumping on their modern-day counterparts is certainly not a good idea, just in case…
The “truths” about grown-up’s rules are far-fetched, ridiculous, outrageous, and downright silly, which is why this book delights so many children. The author, a 1997 Caldecott Medal winner, painstakingly created the amazingly detailed illustrations, and beyond that, I can say no more. This book contains, after all, top-secret information.