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VINE VOICEon 28 January 2010
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I loved the retro design of this book; it really reminded me of the way books looked to me back in the '70s. This book takes some important issues and "really big questions" and starts little minds thinking about them. It's appealing to look at, with plenty going on on each page. My 10 year old daughter loved it and often reads it in bed.

It lost a star because I thought some of the issues could have been covered in more detail, so in that respect maybe it's better for 7-9 yr olds. An excellent starting place for getting children to think about life, the universe and everything though.
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on 23 October 2009
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Children are natural philosophers. Nobody's told them that some questions are too big or too controversial to ask. And philosophy seems to be getting a bit of a makeover these days; perhaps the triviality of celebrity culture soundbites is finally beginning to get to us.

Dr Stephen Law already has a track record in making philosophical concepts accessible to older children and young adults ("The Philosophy Files") so he is a natural choice for Kingfisher to write this introduction to the subject for the 7-12 age group. It's an idea whose time has come, but presenting such abstract ideas clearly and entertainingly is quite a challenge.

He kicks off with the biggest questions of all. What is nothing? (Try to imagine absolutely nothing. Not an empty space - that's something. It's much harder than it sounds). Where did the universe come from? What is the meaning of life? The emphasis throughout is that these are not the questions science alone can settle. Instead, readers are given the tools and examples to conduct their own intellectual enquiries and there is no definitively right or wrong answer. He debunks the myths that have led to sloppy thinking - saying that we have 96% of our DNA in common with chimpanzees isn't the same thing as saying they're our ancestors, for example. As we move on to the contentious subjects of evolution and intelligent design, he states that most scientists support evolutionary theory, but he also mentions creation myths and, as always, encourages us to make up our own minds, with the very important caveat that what really matters is not whether a story is strange and wonderful, but whether it is true.

From there we move on to ethical problems. Why is stealing wrong? If someone could take a pill that would convince them they'd given a lot of money to charity, would that be as good as actually giving the money? If not, can we logically argue that we are altruistic because that makes us happy? Can a robot think, and if you killed a sentient robot, would that be murder? Are designer babies wrong? Is astrology true? Can people bend spoons with their mind?

Finally, we examine what knowledge is and why it matters. A brief tour of well-known optical illusions reminds us that the evidence demanded by Sherlock Holmes is not entirely reliable unless we factor in the human tendency to see what we expect to be there.

All this is presented within 80 pages in a retro Jetsons-style format. It's a very accessible book; the paragraphs are kept short and to the point and there's plenty of space on each page (the distracting, image-heavy layouts used in so many children's non-fiction books nowadays are avoided, letting the thoughts connect with the readers' brains directly - a welcome change). Kingfisher are to be congratulated for producing such an accessible, yet stimulating little book. Let's hope it inspires a few intelligent conversations this Christmas.
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VINE VOICEon 18 October 2009
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Stephen Law has published a number of books on philosophy, looking at the relevance of philosophical questions to every day life.

This book is aimed at children in key stage 2 and 3. It's laid out like an older level picture book, with cartoon pictures reminiscent of the Dr Seuss books. It starts explaining that there are many big questions that humanity is still trying to answer, and outlining what makes some are science questions, while some are more philosophical questions. The distinction is well written, particularly for this age group. The book is designed to be dipped in and out of, with the intention of encouraging thought, and questions.

Two of my children are currently in key stage 2, so I asked them to take a look at the book as well. The eldest was taken with the questions, "Are we all selfish", and "Is time travel possible", while the younger one liked the one titled "Is stealing wrong?". They both had viewpoints on the issues, and have since come looking for the book to see if other questions they have are dealt with inside.

The range of topics was excellent, ranging from the classic questions around evolution and the beginning of time, to questions around the existence of flying saucers, if it's ok to design a baby, if money brings happiness, and if robots can think? There is a glossary and index at the back, followed by suggestions for further reading, and on how to think.

I've always been a fan of encouraging children to think, of encouraging them to make their own minds up about big issues, and not being afraid to debate them; so I was impressed with this. It would be good to see more books like this around for children.
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on 25 October 2009
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Philosophy for Children (P4C) is an emerging discipline, based on the idea that it is important to encourage young people to think for themselves about the big issues of the day. And this book fufils that aim brilliantly, in an engaging and challenging style.

The book is split into four chapters:
- Ch 1: The Great Big Universe Puzzle: dealing with the origins of the universe, evolution, physics and the meaning of life.
- Ch 2: Mysterious Minds and Robots that Think: dealing with ours and other people's minds (including bats!), and psychic powers.
- Ch 3: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: dealing with ethics and morality
- Ch 4: Seeing and Believing: dealing with the nature and reliability of knowledge, time travel and aliens.

The book explains some very complex ideas in simple language, but does not dumb down these ideas at all, which makes it a pleasure to read. The only reason I've given it four stars not five is that I think the author deals with some of the more complex issues so succintly that the point of some of the questions may be missed.

For example, the question about what it is like to be a bat is based on Thomas Nagel's article of the same name - but unless you knew that, it might just come across as a really odd question to ask! Similarly, the author asks a question ostensibly about the old medical practice of bleeding (Does bleeding people make them better?). This question is actually about the nature of causality, but on a first read it just seems like an oddball question.

These are very minor gripes, though, in what is otherwise a lovely book, and heartily recommended to both young and old alike.
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VINE VOICEon 22 April 2010
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
A brilliant, simple introduction to life, the universe and everything. This is a book that asks questions rather than provide answers; why are we here? what are we? who made us? what is thought? Each question is covered in a simple paragraph together with a number of popular beliefs that attempt to explain them. It's a fantastic alternative bed time story and my 8 year old son loves it and I quite like the idea of him going to sleep thinking and dreaming of time paradoxes! Douglas Adams is used to explain one conundrum - say no more.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 19 March 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
What more than putting things into perspective, this book is philosophy for children. It puts the questions that will intrigue there minds at an early age. Is there such a things as god?, What made us? and so forth.

My son enjoyed thinking about the questions and came up with some good points himself. Yes, has anyone seen God, and being No, then there isn't such a thing. I told him follow your thoughts and always criticise everything only when you see it for yourself then you believe it. Never, take anything on blind faith.

It's good to start children early on thinking as then there minds can grow quicker they then think for themselves and good thinkers end up being great thinkers.

This book starts you on that path. It poses the really big questions and then makes you pnder about them, children are good thinkers naturally, so why not start them young. Rather than a child play on Nintendo, let them delve into the unknown of the universe. Are the theories of today really real or is it just a bunch of scientists coming togther thinking yes it looks right so it must be right.

I believe this is a great book for children, I never believe in bringing religion to children at a young age, let them find out for themselves.
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VINE VOICEon 24 October 2009
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I ordered this book from Vine as our 8 year old has hit that point in every child's life where everything becomes a question specifically, given our country's continued obsession with religion and teaching it in school at the expense of proper science, for the more philosophical questions regarding the origins of the universe, the meaning of life etc. I have to say that Dr. Law has done a fantastic job of keeping these and other, more scientific, ideological and philosphical questions such as "What does my brain do?", "Is time travel possible?", "Is it Ok to eat animals?" and "Will money make me happy?", to very concise, imaginative, funny and, often, partially open ended answers. At no point does he actually state, for example, that there are no gods or that there are no such thing as psychic powers, but the ability for the parent to take the book's answers and expand and help the child make up there own mind is thoughtfully presented. If I have a minor criticism, it is that the art style is very 50s/60s children's book with simple pictures and slightly muted colours. A more vivid printing and more imaginative art style, along with, perhaps, a cartoon guide, would have really made the book but, as it stands, it is still very highly recommended. A real delight.
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VINE VOICEon 17 December 2009
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The overall impression of this book is good - it's a decent sized hardback, isn't too heavy. The pages are all different colours, the titles are big and eye catching, and there are lots of illustrations. These all come together to give an overall feel of a welcoming book - it invites you to dip in and take a look.

There are four sections, basically looking at The Universe, Thinking, Morals and Beliefs. These sections are then divided by specific questions, ranging from 'Where did everything come from?' to 'Is time travel possible?' Some of these are answered fairly well, whilst others just start to look at the subject. Of course, the book doesn't claim to have all the answers, and any author who said they did would be lying!

I asked my 10 year old daughter to take a look, and she also liked the format. However, she felt that most was a little too complicated for her, and she would prefer to pick it up when she was a little older. However, I'm sure that some at her age would enjoy it, it depends in their interests, and how inquisitive they are. I do think it's a good book to have around, and when she does decide to read it, it should hopefully start her thinking about some of the questions and subjects in the book.
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VINE VOICEon 2 November 2009
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a fabulous book for inquisitive children. I knew my 7 year old son would love it and I was right. The minute he opened it, he was reading everything. He loves picking out the questions and reading the text. The pictures are eye-catching and the pages colourful and appealing. He particularly likes the magical puzzles and brain teasers. It's a really interesting way of getting children into thinking about the world around them and science and difficult questions. My son likes to take this book to bed with him for late night reading and it even went on holiday with us. I think it's great that he can read it himself now but this would also be nice to read together and ask questions together about life, the universe and everything! Great book for all little budding philosophers out there!
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 28 October 2009
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I ordered this for my kids as I thought it looked like their type of thing, but I found myself reading it in one sitting.

Looks wise, the book is like something from the 60s or 70s, with retro fonts and graphics, coupled with a very nice aged look on the covers. This gave it an authoritarian feel, although some of the colour choices (eg black font on dark blue pages) made it difficult to read in dim light.

The questions themselves are in 4 chapters with common themes. My favourite is "The Great Big Universe Puzzle" with my fave question being "What is the meaning of life?" Without giving too much away Dr Law asks if we really need a purpose (especially if it is to wash pants for aliens!). Some of the questions are thought provoking, such as "Did someone design the universe?", some are a bit lightweight, "What is it like to be a bat?".

I asked my kids some of these and we had some good conversation, especially around whether money makes you happy (of course it does!!)

All in a nice book which while it won't really answer the significant questions of our time will at least get you, and your kids, thinking about them.

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