Big Ideas for Curious Minds: An Introduction to Philosophy

The School of Life. Sept. 2019. 156p. ed. by ed. by Alain de Botton. index. photos. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781999747145.
Gr 4-9–This accessible compendium features simple language and relatable examples. Twenty-six philosophers’ key ideas are developed in three to four pages followed by a biographical sketch. Many are Western men like Socrates. Almost as many Western women chime in including Mary Wollstonecraft. Several essays are from the work of non-Western philosophers like Zera Yacob from Ethiopia and Ibn Sina from Iran. Examples motivate the concept being explained. The book’s styling is pleasing, with tasteful, colored cartooning for the biographical profiles. Some essays end with a graphic organizer for making a list of “things I would like to know more about.” There is a clear table of contents. The index has photos or sketches of each philosopher with their birth and death dates. The authors are British, but there are only a few minor differences with standard American English which most students would hardly notice. A librarian book-talking one of the questions (strategically choosing passages) would certainly hook some of the many tweens trying to figure out their social standing and larger questions of identity. Teachers could use these essays as writing prompts.
VERDICT A formidable introduction for a middle schooler interested in philosophy and a reference book that offers more than Wikipedia. Strongly recommended for middle school libraries looking for high quality nonfiction reference books.

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