As a child, author Jamia Wilson had a lot of questions. The daughter of two professors, she was always on the search for answers and had a curiosity to know the how, the why, the what. In Big Ideas for Young Thinkers she invites the reader to open up their mind and to be willing to share their questions and thoughts, after all we are all philosophers.
A manifesto at the beginning of the book establishes that, “We all have questions, but we won’t always have the same answers.” This manifesto lays out the ground rules for having productive debates and courageous discussions and I found it to be highly useful. In a book that is clearly going to divide thoughts and opinions it is essential to have the skills and qualities needed to be able to accept the differing views of others without undermining them. It is important to remember that you are never going to agree with everybody and that’s ok.
The book explores twenty of life’s big questions that are broken up into five categories; Identity, Life, Truth, Culture and Creativity. Readers are asked to ponder questions including; Who am I? Is race real? What happens when we die? What is right and wrong? What is freedom? Is an ideal society possible? What is memory? Each question receives its own double page spread featuring the author’s thoughts and the views and opinions of great thinkers both past and present. Wilson encourages the reader to listen to her own views and those of others, to reflect on their own real-life experiences and to decide where their own views fall on the various issues.
Everyone is a philosopher and this is represented by the wide range of people and quotes that are included. Some names you will recognise, some you will not, all of their ideas are equally important. To give a flavour, ideas come from notable Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle, the Chinese philosopher Confucius, activists Mohandas Gandhi, Maya Angelou and Malala Yousafzai, scientists Neil deGrasse Tyson and Stephen Hawking, writers Agatha Christie, JK Rowling, Orson Wells and Salman Rushdie, politicians Benjamin Franklin and Nelson Mandela.
The double page spreads are bright and colourful and the lively illustrations by Andrea Pippins are eye-catching. As well as text there are portraits, quotes and timelines. At the back of the book a timeline of key thinkers is a welcome inclusion and it is interesting to note how views and opinions have evolved over time. The detailed glossary is excellent and is necessary as Wilson includes all manner of ‘big’ words to accompany the big questions.
What I really like about this book is that Wilson reflects on her own experiences and retells how these have formed her views. From finding the beauty in a rainbow on a snowy day to her imaginings of a dream society scribbled into a tattered, old diary whilst on road trips listening to John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ to her understanding of freedom and opting out of saying the US Pledge of Allegiance as it didn’t align with her views.
This is a great book for introducing children to the ideas of philosophy and to some of life’s big questions. It will challenge and divide opinions and it should ultimately remind children that there are never too many questions and they should not be afraid to ask.
Recommended for 10+.