Be Human

Dear Helen Webber and Marianne Carus,

I don’t know when I bought Humankind. But I do know that the cover art was so beautiful. It was the first thing that drew me to the book. That was when I noticed the title. One simple word evoked images of everyday people doing everyday things.

How wrong I was.

For one thing, there was “Level E” and “compiled by”, which I struggled with for years. It looked like an anthology to me. It did seem like a children’s anthology. But I have yet to come across a children’s anthology used as textbook. Is it supposed to be textbook?

Of the 14 pieces in the anthology, there were only a few that stayed with me for years. “Some Adventures of Flat Stanley” by Jeff Brown was fun. It was also the only article I read about adventures that was predicated by “some”; usually, it’s “the”. So, what I thought—because of “some”—there should be other adventures of Flat Stanley but were never told. Strange that it was immediately followed by Vernon Scannell’s Death of a Snowman. It’s quite a poignant and lonely take on Frosty.

The Whoppers collected by Alvin Schwartz was interesting. I think that was also the first time I across another sense for whopper because, for a long time, I only knew it as the name of burger. Compared to Paul Biegel’s “Topsy-Turvy Day”, the former was a better read.

Verna Aardema’s “Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears” left me questions: did the mosquito lie to the iguana? Or was the mosquito mistaken about what he saw the farmer was digging up? Or was it joke that was unclear or unfinished? Don’t get me wrong. I dislike mosquitoes for obvious reasons. But the story made me pity the poor creature.

With that said, I realized that Humankind was not solely about humans but to explore what it means to be human.

Thanks for the compilation.


Mati Serraño


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