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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Why picture book philosophy?

Picture books allow us to suspend our disbelief and imagine ourselves and the world differently. That is why they make great jumping off points for philosophical conversations (read why do philosophy with children here). This blog contains a selection of picture books that raise philosophical questions. Use them as springboards into the unexplored parts of you and your children’s imagination – your great unthunk. I have written some hints at philosophical themes and questions that might arise. Remember these are only some ideas to get you started, each book will suggest different questions to everyone.

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