New York: Sterling Publishing Co., Inc, 1976. — 254 p.This book grew out of my many years experience as a professional librarian working with children. “Where are the riddle books?” and “Do you have any more riddle books?” were two questions frequently asked by many young readers. And once through a riddle book or two, the reader was ready to search out a likely victim on whom his repertoire could be practiced. A receptive librarian was as good as any for this purpose. The children soon discovered that I could be relied on to listen to anyone who had a riddle to tell. Their pleasure in riddles proved con-tagious. Soon, I became addicted to telling riddles of my own. Our exchange of riddles back and forth over the years resulted in a substantial collection which forms the core of this book. Why do children enjoy riddles so immensely? First, riddles are based on language and logic. To tell a riddle, all you need do is communicate with someone capable of understanding what you are saying. There are no rules to riddles— and you don’t need any equipment either. Second, languages, English, in particular, have a large number of words with more than one meaning. These words provide a vast reservoir of material from which riddles may be developed. For example: Question: How can a leopard change his spots? Answer: Move to another place. This riddle depends on the double meaning of “spot” as both a mark on a leopard’s coat and as a physical location. Another rich source of riddle fun comes from the fact that the expected or reasonable answer turns out to be the wrong one. For example: Question: Why do surgeons wear masks during operations? Answer: Because if they make a mistake, no one will know who did it. The reasonable explanation—that surgeons wear masks for purposes of medical hygiene—is replaced by a ridiculous answer, that they want to hide their identity in the event they slip up. No punishment awaits failure to answer the riddles we ask each other. The inability to answer them correctly has no real or serious consequences. But much of the fun is in the asking—riddles are not really intended to be solitary affairs. Enjoying riddles usually begins around second grade or at about seven years of age, when riddles quickly become children’s favorite form of verbal play. Just as physical play helps to develop the young body for adult life, verbal play helps sharpen young minds. Often riddles teach the children something they did not know before about words or about logical relationships. When this happens, the riddle becomes a learning experience. This collection is intended to provide a rich source of riddles for children of any age or stage of intellectual attain-ment. There are simple riddles and complex ones, outright gags and mental puzzlers, puns and conundrums, classic riddles and contemporary ones. My object was to furnish a single giant riddle book which will serve the child from his earliest interest in riddles right on through adulthood. The scope and variety of the riddles in the collection will, I hope, not only provide endless hours of amusement, but also help to stimulate intellectual growth.
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