Monday, March 26, 2012

Fractions = Trouble!

Claudia Mills' latest book Fractions = Trouble! is about Wilson, who is having trouble with math in his third grade classroom, and so his parents hire a math tutor to help him. Embarrassed by this, Wilson is determined to keep it a secret from everyone at school. Wilson's interactions with his tutor, his brother Kipper, his best friend Josh, and his hamster Pip help Wilson to figure out what really matters to him.

Like all Claudia Mills' books (she is a philosophy professor at University of Colorado who has written dozens of children's books), the story is philosophically rich, generating questions about friendship, knowledge of other minds, learning and education, and the nature of happiness. And it's a great story for figuring out that everyone learns in different ways and that the fact that you don't understand something right away doesn't mean that you can't become good at it!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

little blue and little yellow

Another Leo Lionni book, little blue and little yellow tells the story of two friends, both blobs of color, who love playing together, and one day hug each other so much that they both become green. Their parents declare that they are no longer who they were.

Like all the Lionni books I've been reading, this story has great philosophical energy. It makes me think about identity and what it is that makes us who we are - once little blue and little yellow are green, are they no longer blue and yellow? They still feel inside like blue and yellow. Can something change and still remain the same? If you change, are you still the same person? The story also raises questions about knowledge and belief: the parents are sure that little blue and little yellow are no longer themselves, but they base this belief solely on the way the children appear to them. Is that a good basis for believing something? Often things aren't the way they look to us - and yet we persist in thinking we know things because we have seen them. When is appearance a reasonable basis for believing or knowing something?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Boodil My Dog

Boodil My Dog by Pija Lindenbaum tells the story of a child's relationship with the family dog, Boodil, a bull terrier. The child describes Boodil as "brilliant," "fierce, strong and brave," with "nerves of steel." The drawings in the story, however, paint a different picture, as Boodil is shown, among other things, moving very slowly, avoiding puddles, quivering under the couch, and crashing into the narrator's baby brother. 

The inconsistencies between the text and pictures raise many questions - including questions related to how we know what we know, the relationship between perception and truth, and whether we can understand other minds, including the minds of animals. And both the text and drawings are clever and funny. I've found that children love this book and it inspires interesting questions for them.