Wondering Aloud: Philosophy With Young People

“Shivers”

Arnold Lobel is probably my favorite children’s book author, and a master at generating philosophically suggestive narratives. The Frog and Toad books, in particular, are full of stories that raise many puzzles about life and experience. One of my favorites is the story “Shivers,” in Days With Frog and Toad. Frog tells Toad a ghost […]

A Wrinkle in Time

I love this book. A science fiction young adult novel by Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time was first published in 1962 and has won all kinds of awards. In the engrossing story, packed with philosophical questions, three children travel through the universe by means of “tesseract,” a fifth-dimensional phenomenon explained as being the square […]

Happy

Mies Van Hout’s Happy explores feelings by illustrating one word – brave, surprised, proud, angry – with lively pastels of unusual-looking fish. The book is engaging and the simple structure makes it easy to discuss with children some interesting questions about feelings and emotions. What is an emotion? Are emotions and feelings the same? Do the […]

Michael Rosen’s Sad Book

The nature of sadness. Michael Rosen’s Sad Book describes how sadness feels and tries to understand it. “Sometimes sad is very big. It’s everywhere. All over me.” Michael Rosen’s son, Eddie, died, and that, he tells us, is what makes him most sad. “Sometimes I’m sad and I don’t know why. It’s just a cloud […]

Pezzettino

Leo Lionni’s Pezzettino is the story of the small Pezzettino (which means “little piece” in Italian), who is a small orange square surrounded by other beings who are all made up of many different-colored squares. Pezzettino observes that everyone around him is “big and [does] daring and wonderful things.” He concludes that he must be […]

Reality Scavenger Hunt

Yesterday in an online philosophy session, the children and I played a game created by my colleague David Shapiro, the “Reality Scavenger Hunt.” This has been a popular philosophy prompt for years, and since the pandemic began, I have been adapting the game for virtual settings. First, I divide the children up into groups of 3-5 […]

Reflections about Death

Earlier this year I had a conversation with a classroom of fourth grade students about death. It began when we read a chapter from Natalie Babbit’s Tuck Everlasting, which raises interesting questions about death, living a mortal life, and the possibility of becoming immortal. I have posted about this book in the past.  The students wondered […]

The Universe and Dr. Einstein

I’ve been re-reading the short book The Universe and Dr. Einstein, originally written in 1948 by Lincoln Barnett. I first read and was inspired by this book when I was 17. An engrossing account, written for the general public, of the theories of relativity and quantum mechanics, this is an accessible and effective resource for […]

Tuck Everlasting

Recently I read a chapter (Chaper 12) from the young adult novel Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbit, to a class of fifth grade students at John Muir Elementary School in Seattle. I was surprised that almost none of the students had heard of this classic work.Tuck Everlasting is the story of the Tuck family, a […]

When Lions Roar

Can we control our feelings? Our perceptions? Does how we feel affect what happens in the world?When Lions Roar, a simple picture book by Robie Harris, depicts how scary the world can feel when “lions roar,” “thunder booms,” “big dogs bark,” “mommies holler,” and so on. The child in the story responds, “I sit right […]