The Art of Reading Backwards: The Magic of Palindromes

Have you ever tried to read words backwards? I tried it once when I was a kid. My name was Illek. My cat’s backwards name was Niffum, and my favorite food was etalocohc. I went around saying words nobody else understood. It was like speaking my own language.

But then I happened upon some very surprising words that stayed the same when I read them backwards. “Dad” stayed dad and “mom” stayed mom, and even my friend Hannah stayed the same! I didn’t know it then, but I had discovered the very cool world of palindromes.

What is a Palindrome?

Palindromes stay the same when you read them frontwards or backwards. They can be words:

eye

pop

radar

They can be phrases or sentences:

never odd or even

don’t nod

Was it a cat I saw?

Do geese see God?

They can be numbers:

505

62326

12:21

And some palindromes are even the same frontwards, backwards, upside-down, and upside-down backwards:

108801

SOS

NOON

Palindrome Magic Trick

Here is a trick you can do to turn almost any number into a palindrome. First, think of a number and write it down:

3241

Then, write that number backwards and add the two together:

3241

+ 1423

4664

In some cases, it doesn’t work the first time. When that happens, just keep reversing and adding numbers until you get your palindrome:

4972

+ 2794

7766

+6677

14443

+34441

48884

Are You a Palindromaniac?

Warning: palindromes can be addictive! Some people start looking for them everywhere and can go a little nuts in the quest for finding palindromes.

You may be at risk of being a palindromaniac if:

  • You have friends named Ana, Eve, Izzi, Otto or Bob.
  • Your favorite times of day are 10:01, 11:11, 5:55, etc.
  • You love to kayak and have always wanted to drive a racecar.
  • Your favorite car is a Toyota.

Find Out More

Get your palindromaniac fill with these books and resources:

For young kids: Mom and Dad are Palindromes, by Mark Shulman and Adam McCauley, or If You Were a Palindrome, by Michael Dahl. Both of these fun picture books are a great introduction for kids into the world of palindromes.

For older kids and grown-ups: Jon Agee is the king of palindrome books like Go Hang a Salami, I’m a Lasagna Hog, and Palindromania. Cartoony line drawings are paired with wacky captions for some good fun.

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