Through the Prism

After passing through the prism, each refraction contains some pure essence of the light, but only an incomplete part. We will always experience some aspect of reality, of the Truth, but only from our perspectives as they are colored by who and where we are. Others will know a different color and none will see the whole, complete light. These are my musings from my particular refraction.


Correcting Revisionist History

An email exchange and a review concerning Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: Big Bad Ironclad! by Nathan Hale, with possible updates to be added at a later date.


Mr. Hale,

I was excitedly paging through our new copy of Big Bad Ironclad!, the second book from your "Hazardous Tales" series that we own, thinking about all the potential ways I might display it and recommend it to readers who I think will eat it up, when I noticed something funny about the end-pages: Kansas was the same brown color as the southern states on the map. I found the legend and studied the details to make sure I was seeing things correctly, and unfortunately I was. Your book incorrectly identifies Kansas as a Confederate state in the Civil War.

Now, I know in recent political elections Kansas hasn't looked all that different than South Carolina or Mississippi and the news stories coming from our state aren't generally evolving into anything one might call proudly liberal, but I'm pretty sure neither the Free State Brewery nor Lawrence Free State High School will be wanting to change their names to conform with your book, and some of us proud Jayhawkers still desperately cling to our more progressive history as evidenced by such facts as our membership in the Union.

I'm not sure what can be done about the error at this point, but I have to admit it makes me suspicious about the accuracy of the other information presented in your books and more hesitant to recommend them, so I thought I should let you know.

Life-long Kansan,*


Hi [Degolar],

Oh my. That's a HUGE mistake! I can't believe it has taken so long for someone to catch it! Thanks for spotting it.

The endpaper was the last thing created for these books. By the time I turned in the endpaper artwork, the interior of the book had been edited, proofed and fact-checked twice over. The endpaper fell into the "decoration" category and was only reviewed quickly by myself and the art director. I take full responsibility. I must have been asleep at the wheel when dropping the colors onto that map.

This will have to be remedied. There's no excuse. I'm going to have to create a sticker to fix in the cover to correct it. May I use your name on the blog post and sticker? I am going to make a "Correction Baby" sticker and make it available to request or print from my site. I'd like to acknowledge you on it if I may. Call it the "[Degolar] Sticker Fix" or something.

I invite you to read the rest of the book with an eye for inaccuracy, you will see a book that has been carefully fact-checked. This is a very, very embarrassing mistake. Hopefully we can fix future editions.

All best,



Thank you for the quick response and proposed solution. It's much more than I had expected. While I don't feel the need to have my name attached to the sticker since I brought this up on behalf of all Kansans (hmmm . . . "Jayhawker/Kansas Sticker Fix," perhaps?), you're more than welcome to use it as you would like.

I definitely plan to read the book--though because it looks appealing and I'm interested in it, and not simply because I want to check it for factual accuracy. And never fear, One Dead Spy is still on my Guys Read Book Club display. Keep writing them so we can keep reading.



Now this is fun history! It's a graphic novel, with the major characters somewhat caricatured to humorous effect. Historically accurate factual information, but recounting particularly interesting lesser-known events, with the focus largely on action--battles, explosions, intrigue, and explosive personalities. Comic relief. The book pulled me in and kept me eagerly engaged to the end. And, perhaps most importantly, when I finished I wanted to know more about the people and events depicted. It's definitely one I'll be recommending.

(Book description: Each of the books in Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales has elements of the strange but true and is presented in an engaging, funny format, highlighting the larger-than-life characters that pop up in real history. Big Bad Ironclad! covers the history of the amazing ironclad steam warships used in the Civil War. From the ship's inventor, who had a history of blowing things up and only 100 days to complete his project, to the mischievous William Cushing, who pranked his way through the whole war, this book is filled with surprisingly true facts and funny, brave characters that modern readers will easily relate to.)


*Not entirely historically accurate.  My family is from Kansas and I grew up here and consider it my home, but my parents were living elsewhere when I was born and we didn't move back here until I was seven.  So I took some literary license to stretch the truth a bit, but the idea is correct in that I fully think of myself as a Kansan.


UPDATE: Nathan Hale has created his first (it looks like there will be more) blog posts addressing this issue: Hazardous Error! at Space Station Nathan and Correction Baby Emergency! at Hazardous Tales.
He sent the cartoon to me as an email attachment, along with the following message:

Hi [Degolar],

I have now made a cartoon about the error for the Hazardous Tales blog:

We aren't planning on sweeping this under the rug, we're making a big deal and having lots of fun with the error. I spoke this weekend at the Baltimore Book Festival and showed the mistake to the crowd. They enjoyed it, and kids are learning about research, fact-checking and publishing because of it. I really think it's making them think.

Here's a copy of the cartoon, feel free to post it on your blog.



At 10/02/2012 1:43 PM, Blogger Hadrian said...

Would now be a bad time to point out the other mistake on those endpapers? West Virginia was not admitted into the union until 1863.

At 10/03/2012 7:04 AM, Blogger Degolar said...

Yes, it would be a very bad time, since I'm trying to take the credit for finding this and parley it into an author visit so he can apologize to the state of Kansas in person, so "my" mistake has to be unique. ;-P

A few commenters on his blog have pointed out the color of West Virginia is wrong to go with the heading is 1861. Though in his defense, he does have a little note pointing to the state that says: "West Virginia separated from Virginia in 1861 to join the Union in 1863."

He's being very cool about the whole thing. More updates to come, I think.


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