Q. We have a German high school exchange student coming next week, and we have tickets to see "War Horse" at the Fox Theatre. We would love to take her to see the amazing Fox but are concerned that "War Horse" might not be appropriate. Advise quickly please.
-- M.B., of Swansea
A. Unless I'm totally off base, I can't think of a single reason to say neigh ... er ... nay.
If you're worried about it being age-appropriate, you needn't be. "War Horse" is based on a story by acclaimed children's writer Michael Morpurgo, the third children's laureate of the United Kingdom. And even though he once thought they were crazy for trying to turn it into a musical, even he was stunned by how quickly it began to move people "of all ages" on stage.
His young fans obviously agree. When the London Times asked 10-year-old Alexander Jacob, of London, to review the show, he gave it five stars, calling it "movingly and realistically brought to life" and "an emotional and compelling adaptation of the book."
"Before the show, I doubted that a mere puppet would be able to emulate the movements and form of a horse," he wrote. "How wrong I was! When Joey was brought on stage, everyone gasped in awe."
And that should ease another concern: While the musical, like the movie, takes place during the horrors of World War I, the heartwarming story focuses on the courage of a young man and his quest to find his beloved horse, Joey, and bring him home.
The magic of the show is driven by the Handspring Puppet Company, which has brought the breathing, galloping, charging horses to life. It helped earn the show five Tony nominations, including best play and best design for set, lighting and sound. Naturally, the puppet company earned a special Tony for its work.
To be frank, the only other concern I can see is that you may be edgy about how a German student will react to a story about World War I. If that's the case, perhaps this will further allay your fears: The first foreign-language version of the musical is expected to open in Berlin in late October.
For all these reasons, I think I'd gallop off to the Fox to give your guest a memorable experience to see it before her friends do. It opens Tuesday and continues through March 24; tickets are $15-$74 through MetroTix.com or www.fabulousfox.com. If you go, maybe you'll tell me what you thought straight from the horse's mouth.
Q. In the 1940s, my mother had a wringer washer powered by a motorcycle-type engine. The engine ran on "white" gas. My sister and I are puzzled: What is white gas?
-- Harvey Hoffmann, of Waterloo
A. Wow, I haven't thought of that term since my dad kept a small whiskey bottled filled with the stuff in his tool cabinet.
You have to remember that back then, leaded gas was the norm for automobile fuel. Tetraethyl lead was added to boost engine performance, prevent knocks and slow exhaust valve wear. To further distinguish it, they added an orange dye to "regular" gas and purple to what was known as "ethyl."
But automobile gas apparently could cause problems in some situations, so people bought white gas, which had no additives or dyes. Now, it's usually called naphtha and is often used in lighter fluid, shoe polish and camp stove fuel.
Q. I recently bought some lawn-waste bags and happened to notice they were made of "Kraft paper." So, are they made by the food company, too?
-- Patrick Dean, of Belleville
A. Kraft produces a dizzying array of items -- from Maxwell House to Oscar Mayer to Jell-O -- but those paper bags aren't one of them yet.
"Kraft" is actually a type of paper produced from a process that removes most of the lignin from wood, thereby yielding the strong, brown paper you usually buy for wrapping or refuse bags. It's called kraft from the German word "kraft," meaning strength or power.
What animal's name means "man of the forest"?
Answer to Thursday's trivia: In 1618, Avedis I, an Armenian alchemist, was working to turn base metals into gold. Instead, he mixed tin, copper and silver to make a cymbal that was far more musical and powerful than anything heard before. The bands of Sultan Osman II quickly adopted the new instrument for their calls to prayer and other performances. Avedis was given 80 gold pieces and the family name "Zildjian," meaning "cymbal smith." Now, 15 generations later, the company is still making plenty of noise (www.zildjian.com).
Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or firstname.lastname@example.org or call 239-2465.