On Sudden Hill by Linda Sarah and Benji Davis

Birt and Etho are BIG friends. Playing together they let their imaginations sore and cardboard boxes become castles, yachts, rockets and space ships. Birt loves their two-by-two rhythm. Then one (cold) Monday morning a tiny boy named Shu comes along. He has been watching them play from afar and has finally plucked up the courage to ask if he can join in too – he has brought his cardboard box. Two become three, Etho welcomes Shu – but Birt feels strange …

Two’s company, three is a crowd – a beautiful story raising philosophical questions about the nature and value of friendship.

What makes a good friend?

Is friendship a gift given freely or do we expect something in return for our friendship?

Is it possible to be lonely in a crowd?

Do we need friends to lead a good life?

Do friends shape who we are and who we will become?

What is the difference between being alone and being lonely?

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Town is by the Sea by Joanne Schwartz and Sydney Smith

It goes like this – a boy lives with his family in a house by the sea. It’s summer and the sea is sparkling. The boy and his friend play on the only two swings that are left, there used to be four. He runs an errand for his mother. He visits his grandfather’s gravestone.

All the while the bright summer day is contrasted with the deep dark mine under the sea in which his father works as a coal miner, like his grandfather had done before him and in which, the boy understands he will work too.

In this town, that’s the way it goes.

This book is perfectly described by the New York Times as “quietly devastating.” It raises questions around themes of destiny, free will and determinism and the ethics of work.

published in the UK by Walker books

Why does the boy think he will become a miner?

Does he have a choice?

Does everyone have the same opportunities in life?
Should they?

Are we all born equal?

Should people ever have to risk their life to earn a wage?

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There’s a Bear on my Chair by Ross Collins

A rather large polar bear has taken up residence on a very small mouse’s chair. The mouse does everything he can think of to get the bear to move, pushing and shoving, staring him out, luring with delicious fruit… The mouse even tries frightening the bear by jumping out of a box (in his rather unsightly green underpants) to no avail. The bear won’t budge. Then the tables are turned as the bear reveals his endangered status and suddenly we become unsure of what’s right and what’s wrong.

Quite often with picture books for the best philosophical questions it’s best to stop before the end of the story, before all the loose ends are tidied up. This is one of those books. Personally I would stop reading just after the bear reveals his endangered status.

Do all creatures have rights?

Do smaller, less powerful creatures have less rights than bigger, more powerful creatures?

Does this apply to younger creatures, what about children?

Do children have the right to property?

What does it mean to have power over someone else?

Should creatures other than humans have legal rights?

Should habitats have rights? Why?

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Tidy by Emily Gravett

Pete the badger is obsessively tidy. It’s bad enough that his obsession encroaches on his friends personal space but then he turns his attention to cleaning up the environment… and when scrubbing and polishing rocks and picking up every single fallen autumn leaf creates a mound of plastic bags and results in the trees looking “bare and scrappy” he takes things even further. Pete’s extreme cleansing measures, as well as destroying many creatures habitat, result in him being unable to find his way home and after a hungry night spent in the bowl of a cement mixer, he finally sees his mistake. It really helps to pay close attention to the images in this story. The expression on the animals faces as Pete gives them a bath, the flower in the bin, the pile of bin bags, the hoover in the forest, the price tags on the trees…

How does Pete decide which flowers should stay and which should go?

What is the difference between a weed and a flower?

What is beauty?

Can nature be ugly?

Why do the animals allow Pete to wash them?

Should Pete use the hedgehog to brush the fox’s tail?

Why do the replanted trees have prices tags?

What does it mean to be perfect?

Do some creatures have more rights than other creatures?

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The Bad Mood & The Stick by Lemony Snicket and Matt Forsythe

A girl named Curly is in a bad mood and happens to come across a stick which has randomly fallen to the ground. The stick comes in handy for poking her little brother and happily also relieves her of her bad mood – which has been now passed to her mum. The bad mood is passed on further and so is the stick the stick finds an unlikely home in an ice cream parlour window whose owner keeps it there because it makes him happy.

Where do moods come from?

What are emotions?

What is the difference between a mood and an emotion?

Is a mood a thing that can be transferred/ passed along like a ball?

Is weather a good metaphor for moods?

Do we need our emotions to make reasoned judgements?

Why does the stick make the man happy?

How we respond to objects and incidents via emotions seems to shape what happens next, if we are not in charge of our responses – are we really making decisions for ourselves?

What place do random events have in life? Is the path of our life determined by prior events and experiences rather than by us making reasoned decisions?

Can bad actions have good effects?

If a bad action results in a good outcome – was it still a bad thing to do? How do we determine what is good and what is bad?

if everything that happens to us is a result of some event that happened before – what would be the first cause?

What is a coincidence?

What does it mean when the illustrations are described as art – are illustrations art? Can art be something that is mechanically reproduced?

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