A Sneetch is a Sneetch and Other Philosophical DiscoveriesFinding Wisdom in Children's Literature
Taking Picture Books Seriously: What can we learn about philosophy through children's books? This warm and charming volume casts a spell on adult readers as it unveils the surprisingly profound philosophical wisdom contained in children's picture books, from Dr Seuss's Sneetches to William Steig's Shrek!. With a light touch and good humor, Wartenberg discusses the philosophical ideas in these classic stories, and provides parents with a practical starting point for discussing philosophical issues with their children. Accessible and multi-layered, it answers questions like, Is it okay for adults to deceive kids? What's the difference between saying the Mona Lisa is a great painting and vanilla is your favorite flavor? Each chapter includes illustrations commissioned especially for this book.
Acknowledgments ix ‘‘Why? Why? Why?’’: Children, Philosophy, and Picture Books 1 1 Harold and the Purple Crayon: Can You Get Wet Swimming in an Imaginary Ocean? 7 2 The Important Book: Is a Leopard without Its Spots Still a Leopard? 16 3 Shrek!: Could a Dead Skunk Smell Good? 24 4 Let’s Do Nothing!: Can You Just Do Nothing at All? 33 5 Knuffle Bunny: How Do You Know I’m Angry If I Don’t Say So? 42 6 Many Moons: Do Experts Really Know More? 48 7 Yellow and Pink: Could Human Life Have Arisen Purely by Chance? 55 8 Morris the Moose: How Do You Know When You’ve Made a Mistake? 63 9 Emily’s Art: What’s the Difference between Saying the Mona Lisa Is a Great Painting and Vanilla Is Your Favorite Flavor? 71 10 Miss Nelson Is Missing!: Is It Okay for Adults to Deceive Kids? 81 11 The Giving Tree: How Can It Be Wrong to Give Someone What They Want? 90 12 ‘‘Cookies’’: What Good Is Having Will-Power If You Don’t Have Any More Cookies? 100 13 Frederick: Can You Enjoy Doing Something Even If It’s Work? 109 14 The Sneetches: Isn’t It All Right to Discriminate in Choosing Your Friends? 116 15 The Paper Bag Princess:What’s Wrong with ‘‘Living Happily Ever After’’? 125 16 The Big Orange Splot: Is There Anything Wrong with Conformity? 132 Taking Picture Books Seriously 142 Who’s Who: Thumbnail Biographies of the Philosophers 145 What’s What: Key Philosophical Terms 156 Next Steps: Additional Philosophical Picture Books 160 More Next Steps: Digging Deeper into Philosophy 163
“This is a great resource for those interested in pre-college philosophy and in elementary education, and for parents generally. It also will be useful to upper-level philosophy and education students looking for novel approaches within their disciplines. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-level undergraduates and above; general readers.” (Choice, 1 November 2013) "Filled with humor and keen insights, A Sneetch is a Sneetch and other Philosophical Discoveries is essential reading for anyone with an interest in philosophy or children's literature - and by anyone, I mean anyone - from the mom or dad looking for something interesting to read to their toddler, to writers of every ilk, and yes, even full fledge, academically inclined philosophers. Happy pondering!!." (History in Review, 3 June 2013)
Thomas E. Wartenberg is Professor of Philosophy at Mount Holyoke College, USA. He founded the Teaching Children Philosophy program, which won the 2011 APA/PDC Prize for Excellence and Innovation in Philosophy Programs. Its website, www.teachingchildrenphilosophy.org, receives tens of thousands of visits monthly. Professor Wartenberg’s 13 books as author or editor include Big Ideas for Little Kids: Teaching Philosophy through Children’s Literature (2009), Existentialism: A Beginner’s Guide (2008), and The Philosophy of Film: Introductory Text and Readings (Wiley-Blackwell, 2005), which he co-edited with Angela Curran. He has been awarded Senior Fulbright Fellowships to Germany and New Zealand, as well as a National Endowment for the Humanities Research Fellowship. He has also directed two National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminars for School Teachers.
That children’s picture books can be a source of engaging but puzzling philosophical ideas and theories is an intriguing idea, and reflects the notion that children are natural born philosophers. In A Sneetch is a Sneetch and Other Philosophical Discoveries, Tom Wartenberg illuminates the surprisingly profound thought found in sixteen picture books, from Dr. Seuss’s Sneetches to William Steig’s Shrek! With a light touch and good humor, Wartenberg explains and discusses the philosophical ideas in these classic stories, from ethics to aesthetics, from theories of knowledge to the nature of reality. Wartenberg provides a unique introduction to philosophical ideas using children’s books as a starting point for valuable and engaging discussions between children and their parents, and as a means of helping parents and children both get more out of the books they read together. With original illustrations and written in an accessible style, A Sneetch is a Sneetch provides an interesting and imaginative point of access to the depths of philosophy… and children’s picture books.
“This is a wonderful book. Written with humor and clarity, it's a primer/refresher on philosophy and ethics. Wartenberg uses children's books to tackle the kinds of profound questions kids ask: is it possible to do nothing? What makes a leopard a leopard and not a dog? How can it be wrong to give someone what they want? The book shows the way to discussions in the realm of ideas with your kids, using their favorite picture books. Good picture books provoke good questions, and then the fun of thinking and talking about all the possible answers.” —Mordicai Gerstein, Caldecott winning author of The Man Who Walked Between the Towers "Wartenberg simultaneously shows the philosophical seriousness of children's literature and the childlike wonder of philosophy. Completely convincing and utterly charming." —Claudia Mills, Philosophy Department, University of Colorado at Boulder, and award-winning children's book author
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