Philosophically Interesting Books for Young Kids

Philosophically Interesting Books for Young Kids


A friend is interested in soliciting philosophically-minded books for young children—ones who are reading, but are not at the chapter-book stage. Here are a few I’ve enjoyed with my kids…

Your suggestions welcome!

(image: illustration from The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Manus Pinkwater)

UPDATE: Nolen Gertz reminds me of the “Plato & Co.” series of books, featuring titles such as Wittgenstein’s RhinocerosProfessor Kant’s Incredible DayMister Descartes and His Evil Genius, and more.

 

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Lynne Tirrell
Lynne Tirrell
6 years ago
Annaleigh
Annaleigh
6 years ago

What Do You Do With An Idea? By Kobi Yamada
A is For Activist By Innosanto NagaraReport

Ben Hale
6 years ago
Groundskeeper
Groundskeeper
6 years ago

The University of Washington’s Center for Philosophy for Children has a variety of book-related resources:
http://depts.washington.edu/nwcenter/lessonsplansdiscussquestions.htmlReport

RK
RK
6 years ago

If only it were real: The Higher Infinite for Babies: https://instagram.com/p/TO7G-LzRNj/Report

Justin
Justin
6 years ago

‘What is happiness’ from the French philozenfants series (http://www.nathan.fr/philozenfants/) is pretty good. In general, there seem to be a lot of explicitly philosophical books for young French readers. (Before I had my son, I remember seeing a children’s picture book titled (roughly) ‘What is the point of living if we all end up dead?’ in a Paris book shop—in hindsight I wish I would have bought it!)Report

CA
CA
6 years ago

What If Everybody Did That, for the young Kantian.

Infinity and Me, for the young philosopher of mathematics.Report

SM
SM
6 years ago
Ray
Ray
Reply to  SM
6 years ago

And then there’s Werner Herzog’s reading of this book. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Z1R5vDG2TgReport

Owen Flanagan
Owen Flanagan
6 years ago

When my son Ben was born 34 years ago in 1981, Alasdair MacIntyre gave him a classic in moral psychology and political philosophy, *Where the Wild Things Are*. Ben is now a rock n roll magician but he did major in philosophy. http://www.metalsucks.net/2014/10/29/video-premiere-black-map-im-just-driver/Report

anongrad
anongrad
Reply to  Owen Flanagan
6 years ago

And a pretty good one at that.Report

Matt
6 years ago

Though I take a different meta-ethical lesson from it than he did, I think that Richard Rorty (and, in a somewhat different way recently, Anthony Appiah) was right to say that we learn more about being good people by reading sentimental stories than by abstract lessons or rules. To that end, I strongly recommend anything by Bill Peet, perhaps especially “The Wump World” (good environmental lessons, and sticking tough) and “Buford the Little Big-Horn” (about being different). The best, though a bit more advance than this and maybe more than sought, is Dick King-Smith’s “The Sheep Pig“, Or “Babe: The Gallant Pig“, as it’s usually know these days. The movie is also great, but the book is a wonderful one, and Babe is truly a paragon of virtue.Report

Michael Cholbi
Michael Cholbi
6 years ago
Ben
Ben
6 years ago

Two of my favorite from Seuss: “The Lorax” and “The Butter Battle Book.”
Not your Typical Dragon,” Bar-El and Bowers: great for thinking about norms and difference.
A Sick Day for Amos McGee,” Stead and Stead: on friendship.Report

Daniel Groll
Daniel Groll
6 years ago
Lisa Shapiro
Lisa Shapiro
6 years ago

The Little Prince, by Antoine St Exupery, remains a classic, no?Report

william lewis
william lewis
6 years ago

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig. Covers deontology, personal identity, and love.Report

Antony Eagle
6 years ago
Sam Carter
Sam Carter
6 years ago

We’re in a Book!‘ by Mo Willems.
Includes useful example for the two year old that’s still struggling to get a grip on the use/mention distinction.Report

Sergio Tenenbaum
Sergio Tenenbaum
6 years ago

The Phantom Tollbooth is a classic for the budding nerd.Report

Jamie Dreier
Jamie Dreier
6 years ago

Anno’s Hat Tricks.
Backward induction for your seven-year-old. Beautifully illustrated, and ingeniously presented.Report

David Velleman
David Velleman
6 years ago

Dr. Seuss: Horton Hears a Who (“A person’s a person no matter how small”)Report

Jonathan D. Jacobs
Jonathan D. Jacobs
6 years ago

One of my favorites is _Ellen’s Lion_ by Crockett Johnson. Ellen has playful and often deep conversations with her stuffed lion. In addition to lots of topics relevant to young kids (being afraid of the dark, making mistakes, etc.), there is often interesting issues of pretense and truth in a fiction. (There’s a second one that is harder to find, called _The Lion’s Own Story_.)Report

Jamie Dreier
Jamie Dreier
Reply to  Jonathan D. Jacobs
6 years ago

Jonathan Jacobs: hold on, you mean, she understands the lion?
I suppose it’s really just Ellen, talking to herself. In a private language.Report

Sara L. Uckelman
6 years ago

I’ve always thought the “Just So” stories were a good way to explore various types of causes, e.g., formal, efficient, material, proximal, remote, etc.Report

M
M
6 years ago

The story “Cookies” from Arnold Lobel’s was featured in an Analysis paper by Smith and Kennett called “Frog and Toad Lose Control” (as the story is about how to deal with akrasia re cookies). But the Frog and Toad books generally are full of philosophically interesting stories (e.g. “Tomorrow,” from Days with Frog and Toad, concerns temporal neutrality, and “The Surprise,” from Frog and Toad All Year, concerns whether happiness is entirely ‘in the head.’ I spend way too much time thinking about Frog and Toad.Report

Stephen Clark
6 years ago

Oh and Elfrida Vipont & Raymond Briggs: The Elephant and the Bad Baby!Report

Nellie
Nellie
6 years ago

Some great suggestions here. Let me also suggest another Steig book I love: Amos & Boris. Seriously dark angst. Meaning of life, friendship, facing death. Arnold Lobel also wrote Fables and Mouse Tales, both of which have philosophical content similar to the Frog & Toad series.Report

Antony Eagle
6 years ago

Another one: Dr Seuss, ‘The Sneetches‘. Money pumps, cyclic preferences, anti-discrimination.Report

Ron McClamrock
Ron McClamrock
6 years ago

My son liked Moonbear’s Dream, by Frank Asch; a fun little twist on Cartesian doubt and evidence.Report

Laura Grams
Laura Grams
6 years ago

Another Arnold Lobel fan here! Not just Frog and Toad books but also:
Owl at Home (amusing anthropomorphism extends to other entities like Winter and the Moon, Strange Bumps are in the bed, Owl has difficulty being in two places at the same time)
Mouse Soup (Two Large Stones experience interesting differences in perspective)
Grasshopper on the Road (he encounters unusual characters with different values)

Before one of my daughters was old enough to read it on her own, I read her some of the Ever After High series by Shannon Hale and was pleasantly surprised by how amusing the book is and how readily it gave rise to philosophical conversations with my child about determinism, the nature of time, and reality vs. illusion. One character is also able to “hear” the Narrator, which turns out to be an interesting literary device and provokes questions in the listener about how that’s possible and how it should be affecting the story.

The Amelia Bedelia books are full of absolutely horrid puns but also raise some interesting philosophical questions about why things mean what they do and how a “misunderstanding” might reveal some unexpected truth. Perhaps more in the “political philosophy” vein is Click Clack Moo, a tale of negotiation or perhaps extortion. For very young children, The Monster at the End of this Book featuring Grover from Sesame Street is fairly hilarious.Report

Molly Mahony
5 years ago

November is Picture Book Month, an International Literacy Initiative. Share with your students. Have them share their favorite picture book and why important philosophically! http://picturebookmonth.com/Report

Brandon Polite
2 years ago

Dr. Seuss: Horton Hatches the Egg (https://www.amazon.com/Horton-Hatches-Egg-Classic-Seuss-ebook/dp/B00ESF28SK) — for the young Kantian (“I meant what I said, and a said what I meant, an elephant’s faithful, 100 percent”).Report

Mihaela
Mihaela
2 years ago

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore – by William Joyce. Made after the short brilliant movie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ad3CMri3hOsReport

Marie B
Marie B
2 years ago

We’re also great William Steig and Arnold Lobel fans (I find all their books philosophically interesting in some way). ‘Dog Biscuit‘ by Helen Cooper is lots of fun too, with a girl fearing she has turned into a dog after eating a dog biscuit.
A recent discovery of ours at home is the Wonder Ponder series of Visual Philosophy for Children, by Ellen Duthie and Daniela Martagón. ‘Cruelty Bites’, ‘I, Person’, ‘Whatever You Want’ and ‘Pinch Me!’ (http://www.wonderponderonline.com/shop/), are fantastic and fun invitations to explore cruelty, identity, freedom, and reality, imagination and dreaming. Every time you open one of them you spot something new.Report

Yakov Marks
Yakov Marks
2 years ago

Communism for Kids by Bini Adamczak. https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/communism-kids
Once upon a time, people yearned to be free of the misery of capitalism. How could their dreams come true? This little book proposes a different kind of communism, one that is true to its ideals and free from authoritarianism. Offering relief for many who have been numbed by Marxist exegesis and given headaches by the earnest pompousness of socialist politics, it presents political theory in the simple terms of a children’s story, accompanied by illustrations of lovable little revolutionaries experiencing their political awakening.

It all unfolds like a story, with jealous princesses, fancy swords, displaced peasants, mean bosses, and tired workers–not to mention a Ouija board, a talking chair, and a big pot called “the state.” Before they know it, readers are learning about the economic history of feudalism, class struggles in capitalism, different ideas of communism, and more. Finally, competition between two factories leads to a crisis that the workers attempt to solve in six different ways (most of them borrowed from historic models of communist or socialist change). Each attempt fails, since true communism is not so easy after all. But it’s also not that hard. At last, the people take everything into their own hands and decide for themselves how to continue. Happy ending? Only the future will tell. With an epilogue that goes deeper into the theoretical issues behind the story, this book is perfect for all ages and all who desire a better world.Report

Paul K. Peterson
Paul K. Peterson
2 years ago

The classics, including Winnie-the-Pooh, Alice in Wonderland, Charlotte’s Web, Search for Delicious. I use these in my Philosophy and Children’s Literature class.Report