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Wonder Ponder, Visual Philosophy for Children, is an imprint specialising in products for fun and engaging thinking. This website provides accompanying material to our Wonder Ponder boxes, including guides for children, parents and mediators, ideas for wonderpondering and fun games and activities. It is also a platform for sharing your very own Wonder Ponder content and ideas.

Wonder Ponder Blog

The Wonder Ponder blog includes posts on the creative processes behind our Visual Philosophy for Children material, as well as workshop experiences, guest posts on a variety of topics and generally interesting, eye-catching or mind-bloggling stuff we feel like sharing with you. 

Filtering by Tag: Review

Bringing the brain-bending experience of philosophical thinking into the school, playground and home

Ellen Duthie

Over the moon with the fantastic review in The Look Book by Anita Ridley!

Photo from Look Book  review

Photo from Look Book review

"Wonder Ponder’s wonderfully open-ended box sets take philosophy into the classroom as well as out into the playground and into the home, immediately engaging children and adults alike in the satisfying, brain-bending experience that is philosophical thinking. Added extras, including blank cards and a poster for children to visualise their thought processes and arguments with, make Wonder Ponder box sets even more powerful, becoming a lens through which players can understand more about themselves and they way they think."
Photo from Look Book  review

Photo from Look Book review

"Posing questions, both obvious and off-centre, Wonder Ponder presents 'players' with a variety of different trains of thought. The process of answering is as revealing as one might expect, as those involved attempt to put into words often quite deeply felt positions and try to justify the logic (or not, as the case may be) that they used to arrive at them. Using situations that are as close to home as possible, I, Person tacles what it is that makes us human, while Cruelty Bites ponders issues as broad as family relationships, the treatment of animals, as well as abstract concepts such as consious and unconscuous decision-making." 
Photo from Look Book  review

Photo from Look Book review

Read the full review here.

The Disturbing Awesomeness of Wonder Ponder

Ellen Duthie

Last June, author and researcher Clémentine Beauvais wrote this fantastic review of Wonder Ponder, focused on our first title, Cruelty Bites.  

Quotes: 
"Let me introduce you to the disturbing awesomeness of Wonder Ponder
"Wonder Ponder is different, in its daringness, to other works I've seen of philosophy for children. The graphic style, to start with. The pictures are decidedly dark, hectic, perturbing. Daniela Martagón's visual identity is that of a cheeky, misbehaving, imaginative child." 


"The provocativeness is brilliant".

"Perhaps it's because of the iconoclastic, deliciously naughty feel of it. Perhaps it's because I like Duthie's coherent, plucky position, displayed both in the cards adn in the exra-textual material -online, in her promotion plan, etc. Perhaps it's because I'm always in awe of people taking risks to launch cultural and educational projects like these, especially when they're sure to make at least a few people squirmish. But also more simply perhaps, because it makes me want to sit down with some kids, and adults, and play the game with them."

Read the full review here

Wonder Ponder's Cruelty Bites reviewed in journal of applied philosophy HASER

Ellen Duthie

Today number 6 of the applied philosophy journal HASER. Revista Internacional de Filosofía Aplicada, was published, containing the following review of Cruelty Bites written by Jorge Sánchez-Manjavacas Mellado. Full translation below.  

"Its authors", says Sánchez-Manjavacas, "have created a new level of philosophical and creative interaction with young chldren." 
He calls it "the great revelation of 2014" and assures that it "revolutionises the Philosophy for Children scene including something that is often overlooked: learning to read images". 
"This product brings innovation of the kind that ensures that Philosophy for Children doesn’t lie in the slumber of the same didactic methodologies". 

Transaltion of full review follows: 

Review of Cruelty Bites HASER. Revista Internacional de Filosofía Aplicada
DUTHIE, ELLEN and MARTAGÓN, DANIELA, Cruelty Bites, Traje de lobo S.L., Madrid, 2014. 42 pages.
By Jorge Sánchez-Manjavacas Mellado

It is quite common today to come across places where Philosophy for Children activities are organised. Sites such as libraries, bookshops, schools, collective and artistic venues where Philosophy, of an educational and playful sort, has acquired increasing importance and where there is increasing concern regarding the creation of future societies with critical skills, collaboration skills and where dialogue prevails over violence. Perhaps Matthew Lipman would think his methodological proposal of the late 70s bore little resemblance to some of what is happening today, or perhaps this would have been a reason for joy, given that Philosophy for Children continues to evolve, to move and to make progress in many different directions.

Today we bring you what might be termed the great revelation of 2014, a year that has been characterised by significant innovations in the field of philosophical and artistic education, which might be seen as interestingly paradoxical in the light of the decreasing weight of philosophy and art in Spain’s formal education system, with the approval of the new Education Law (LOMCE). This year a new way of doing Philosophy for Children has been launched: Visual Philosophy for Children. Its authors, Ellen Duthie responsible for the philosophy and the didactic side of it, and Daniela Martagón, responsible for the illustration, have created a new level of philosophical and creative interaction with young children.

The Wonder Ponder universe has just arrived with a series of cards, with no apparent order but plenty of sense of unity, where different scenes are put to the reader, together with a caption that helps prompt conceptualisation, dialogue and criticism. In addition, each card contains enough questions, directly or indirectly related to the image and which provide keys for delving deeper and interaction and reflection of the child with other children or of the child with the adult.

Questions such as: “Should aliens be allowed to keep children in cages?; Is it more cruel to keep a boy in a cage o to keep an animal in a cage?; Would eating humans be cruel? Why? Can animals be cruel? Is it sometimes OK to kill ants?”, etc.

It is thus easy to state that Cruelty Bites is much more than a box, a game or a book of Philosophy for Children illustrations. Simply the format chosen has transformed into cards, all of which together help us discuss concepts with young children such as victim, aggressor, power, motivation, emotions, empathy, person, choice, freedom, etc.

This material revolutionises the Philosophy for Children scene including something that is often overlooked: learning to read images. This aspect of the “game” is so important that the box even comes with a map which readers are recommended to look at with a looking glass in order to catch every little detail and dialogue about what they see.

As we have already mentioned, this book is designed to address the concept of cruelty, but from its many everyday options and areas, in educational settings or at home: animal cruelty, self-cruelty, cruelty with other humans, with our siblings, parents, grandparents or even cruelty in the stories we have all been told since we were very young children.

Here, children will find proposals, problems, dilemmas and questions that will make them reconsider, rediscover and redefine what they go considering as cruel. It is a great way for young children to establish their own limits in areas where parents don’t tend to intervene, as it is often assumed that children don’t ask themselves questions about certain things.

The box/book also includes suggestions and ideas for wonderpondering (a verb meaning to ask ourselves questions while we descover). Among the suggestions recommended, we’d like to note the one where the reader is invited to stand in the characters’ shoes, the one where they can make their own Wall of Cruelty, and the one where they are invited to make their very own Cruelty Bites scene, for which the box includes three blank cards for children’s own drawings, captions and where the box can be “completed”, that is, the reader is ultimately responsible for finishing the first title of Wonder Ponder, with the ideas they add to it.

And it seems that this is not the end of the journey for this adventurous writer and illustrator team. Wonder Ponder is preparing new titles: I, Person (on personal identity and the difference between persons and robots), No Way! (impossibility and impossibility), Freedom in a Box (on freedom),The Real Thing (on reality, imagination and dream); What’s it All For? (on happiness and the meaning of life). And so we hope that more and more themes are added to this new way of doing philosophy and thinking in groups with young, curious minds. These issues are also accompanied with detailed philosophical guides, further suggestions for use, guides to creating one’s own scenes, spaces for sharing creations, specific respurces for language learning, as well as for using Wonder Ponder in the classroom and much more. This is all in the website: www.wonderponderonline.com.

Visual Philosophy for Children looks set to be successful and lasting, with this first proposal already being a great potential innovation that deserved to garner attention from all spheres and support from public and private institutions, as well as from the general public.

This product brings innovation of the kind that ensures that Philosophy for Children doesn’t allow itself to lie in the slumber of the same didactic methodologies, but rather is a bold step forward for educating not only in narrative reading but also in the reading of images in a society that is increasingly entering virtual, audiovisual and imaginative and creative spheres. 

JORGE SÁNCHEZ-MANJAVACAS MELLADO
UNIVERSIDAD NACIONAL DE EDUCACIÓN A DISTANCIA

Visit HASER. Revista Internacional de Filosofía Aplicada

Cruelty Bites reviewed in El Cultural supplement of daily Spanish newspaper El Mundo

Ellen Duthie

Review of Spanish version of Cruelty Bites (Mundo cruel) in leading cultural supplement in Spain, El Cultural, of the daily newspaper El Mundo. By Cecilia Frías. Published on 13.02.2015. 

English translation provided below. 

Cruelty Bites
Ellen Duthie and Daniela Martagón
Wonder Ponder, 17,95€. (8 and up)

Entering Cruelty Bites is like looking at yourself in a mirror where you don't always like what you see. All this in fourteen cards representing a series of apparently inoffensive scenes. But all you need to do it stop and look at each of the images to discover situations that exude cruelty. Thus, we have the picture of a girl squashing an ant’s head with the point of her pencil, a scene of a father forcing his son to bathe despite the boy's desperate cries for help, or the scene of some siblings teasing a baby caged in its cot, defenceless. This is only a sample, but the questions on the back of each scene give us food for thought for months. Is it cruel to make someone do something they don’t want to do? Why can being cruel sometimes be fun? Are some lives worth more than others? Can one be cruel without meaning to? Does it make sense to punish cruelty with cruelty?

The winds unleashed turn into this flood of questions that do not always find unequivocal answers, but which, through these familiar scenes, make us aware of the dark corners of human behaviour, of how any one of us can become a victim, of how revenge, entertainment or curiosity can lead us to cruel behaviour or of whether animal cruelty is not as important. A work of “visual philosophy” that prompts dialogue and confrontation of positions. A book-in-a-box that everyone should read. Few things could be more invigorating than the invitation on the box: “Open, look, think.”. CECILIA FRÍAS

The Philosophy Club reviews Cruelty Bites

Ellen Duthie

WONDER PONDER TRIUMPHS

First published here on December 25, 2014 · by David Urbinder · for The Philosophy Club.

Cruelty Bites from Wonder Ponder

Parents often ask us if we can recommend any books or materials to help them engage their children in philosophical dialogue at home. As it happens, most material specifically designed for philosophical dialogue with kids is intended for a group and requires some preparation on the facilitator’s part. Cruelty Bites, the first in the Wonder Ponder Visual Philosophy for Children series, breaks the mould with an entirely new kind of stimulus that can be used at the dinner table as effectively as in the classroom.

The heart of Cruelty Bites is a boxed set of philosophically-themed cards, each with an illustration on one side and a series of related questions on the other. The illustrations present richly-detailed scenarios that are open to philosophical speculation. One such illustration presents a child strapped down in a laboratory while rats in lab coats poke and prod him. “No reaction at all to tickling?” the caption reads. “What about pinching very hard? Any reaction there?” In the background, we can see a couple of children in a cage, and another rat in a lab coat handing a lollipop to a caged girl, bringing a smile to her face.

wonder-ponder-lab-rats.jpg

This whimsically-illustrated inversion of reality gives rise to a set of accompanying questions which prompt us to consider the many ethical quandaries around animal testing:

  • “Can something be cruel but still be OK to do?”
    “What do you think the rat is doing with the boy? Is it being cruel?”
    “Are some lives worth more than others?”
    “Human scientists experiment with animals to test and discover things that may help humans live longer or better. Is that cruel?”
    “Is it nice of the scientist rat in the background to give the children lollipops?”

The questions are not presented in a prescribed order. Rather, and in keeping with the overall spirit of the package, the questions are scattered across the card in an attractively random arrangement. This encourages a certain freedom in exploring the issues. Children can select a question that grabs them, raise the question, discuss it or just contemplate an answer and, when they are ready, move on to another question. Each card has at least one basic comprehension question suitable for the youngest little philosophers, and several conceptually challenging questions to pique the interest of even the most sophisticated thinkers in the household.

A sample of contents from Wonder Ponder‘s Cruelty Bites

There are 14 scenarios in the box, and although the theme of cruelty may seem limited at first glance, it doesn’t take long to realise that each card alone can trigger an hours-long discussion. Collectively, the cards embrace a wealth of ideas including bullying, moral authority, animal rights, errors of commission and errors of omission, empathy, instincts and power relations.

Cruelty Bites encourages us to play with ideas in any number of ways. Wonder Ponder’s co-founder and author, Ellen Duthie makes some suggestions on the ‘Ideas for wonderpondering’ card, such as asking yourself the same question from the perspectives of different characters in the pictures. This turns the cards into an excellent resource for exploring empathy and alternative points of view. Another suggestion is for children to use the cards as a basis for interviewing people in their community with whom they may not otherwise have common interests. Using the cards to spark discussions with grandparents, baby-sitters and unsuspecting shop-keepers, children can engage in meaningful inter-generational dialogues in which adults may find themselves as perplexed as their young interviewers.

 

‘World Map of Cruelty’ poster from Wonder Ponder

However, the suggestions in the box don’t begin to exhaust the possible ways of utilising these cards. They offer an excellent alternative to ‘I Spy’ or ’10 Green Bottles’ on road-trips. Ask your little philosopher to describe the scenario of their choice, and then let them lead the discussion by reading out their choice of questions. Cards can also be used as time-efficient alternatives to the storybook stimuli traditionally used in communities of philosophical enquiry, or as a way of generating interest in ethical questions at the beginning of a learning unit in the classroom.

Everything about the visual design of Cruelty Bites is appealing, from the minimal but vivid colour palette to the playful typography. Daniela Martagón’s lively, naive illustrations effortlessly evoke a child’s point of view without sacrificing conceptual clarity. Her style infuses an otherwise weighty theme with whimsy and humour. Ellen Duthie’s text is clear and concise, bringing abstract concepts within the grasp of young minds.

Text and image are interwoven in a way that encourages continued exploration. For instance, an image portrays a girl being pushed and pulled around by some schoolyard bullies, her basket of sweets hurled to the ground. A question on the back asks “What is worse, the pulling or the stealing?” I had to return to the image to notice the previously overlooked detail of a girl stealthily pinching a sweet from the ground.

Zoom of playground bullying scene from Wonder Ponder

A brief thematic guide is included to help you plumb the depths of each enquiry, along with a Where’s Wally-style poster of acts cruel and kind for further reflection. The package is capped off by three blank cards on which children can draw scenarios of their own imagining and compose their own questions for investigation.

The set is accompanied by a website which promises further resources, articles and an opportunity to share your own reflections on the theme. Themes for future Wonder Ponder releases include personal identity, freedom, happiness and the meaning of life. Given the visual, tactile and intellectual magnetism of Cruelty Bites, we’re looking forward collecting them all.

Boxes of visual philosophy for children, from Wonder Ponder

The Philosophy Club runs co-curricular and extra-curricular workshops for children, and training for workshop facilitators. The Big Questions philosophy mentoring program is their flagship in-school program.

This review was published on The Philosophy Club's website on 25th December 2014. 

Cruelty Bites reviewed in El País newspaper (translation below)

Ellen Duthie

EL PAÍS. BABELIA. 13.12.2014.
CHILDREN’S AND YA LITERATURE SPECIAL / Review

Is it cruel to kill ants?

A book-in-a-box enquires into cruelty through play and inoffensive questions.

Mundo cruel
Ellen Duthie & Daniela Martagón. Wonder Ponder. Madrid, 2014. 17,95 euros.
By Nuria Barios

Cruelty is a common theme in children’s literature: abandoned children, hungry wolves, violent parents, bloodthirsty step-mothers, jealous siblings … It’s normal: we are born, we experience joy and suffering in a cruel world and children see the world like it is, and understand it much like we do: that is, not much at all. But in the darkness small lights shine, and a philosopher, an illustrator and an editor have just launched their proposal for talking about cruelty. It is called Cruelty Bites and works like a very modern Pandora’s box, full of tiny, inoffensive questions: Is it sometimes ok to kill ants? When? And how many? Is it cruel to make someone do something they don't want to do? (such as having a bath). Should aliens be allowed to keep humans in cages? Would you feel more guilty if you killed a duck by accident or a snail by accident? If the the huntsman killed Snow White, who would be responsible for her death? The huntsman or the Queen? ... A series of questions leading to others that are far from innocent: Are some lives worth more than others? Does it make sense to punish cruelty with cruelty? Is killing part of life? Is it possible to be cruel without meaning to? Can it sometimes be fun to be cruel? Is punishment sometimes necessary? How do we decide what is OK and what is not OK as a punishment? ...

'Open, look, think', says one of the sides of the box that contains Cruelty Bites. It leaves out one thing, because it is part of the very way the contents are presented: 'play!'. The narrative comes out of its format, opens up, fragments and flows, creating a new and fascinating narrative sequence. Fourteen cards are used to draw a map of cruelty based on scenes familiar to a child; that is, familiar to us all. Like cards from a pack, each of them illustrates a scene and on the back, in black comic-like bubbles, poses several questions. Common scenarios, such as leaving a dog home alone all day, lead to very simple questions that contain very complex issues: is it cruel to make a large dog live in an apartment? We call people who have pets their 'owners'. Can people own other people? Do parents own their children?...

Like a book with loose pages, the fourteen cards can be ordered as the reader wishes. The box also contains three cards laid out for readers to make their own Cruelty Bites scenes. There is another card where, among other suggestions, readers are invited to become a reporter and contribute to the ‘Cruelty Interviews’ by speaking to their grandma, the butcher or their brother’s girlfriend to find out, for example, whether they believe cruelty can sometimes be justified. And the box also includes a fantastic, extraordinary poster, that strikes one as a modern take on Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights. Fantasy, Sendak once said, is the core of all writing for children, for any creative act, perhaps for the act of living.

The authors for Cruelty Bites, the philosopher, the illustrator and the editor, call it ‘visual philosophy for children (and beyond)’. This is the first title of a series they have given an English name, Wonder Ponder, containing the two main concepts of the project whereby a sense of wonder prompts a drive to think. And, of course, to play. The three of them conceive of the book as a transformable and transforming object. The reason why Cruelty Bites is so striking and so much fun, the reason why it combines play and horror so wisely, and the reason it moves with such ease from one to the other, is because its authors look at the world through children’s eyes.

Ellen Duthie, Daniela Martagón and Raquel Martínez chose the 20th of November, World Philosophy Day, to publish Cruelty Bites in English and Mundo cruel in Spanish. Other titles will follow, on subjects including personal identity and the difference between a person and a robot; on possibility and impossiblity; on freedom; on reality, imagination and dream and on happiness and the meaning of life. 

A Recipe for Cruelty with Conscience. Wonder Ponder and its first Visual Philosophy for Children title: “Cruelty Bites”

Ellen Duthie

This is an English translation of a review by Germán Machado originally published in Spanish on November 26, 2014 on the blog Garabatos y Ringorrangos.

In 1963, when Hannah Arendt attempted to explain the character and mind of one of the protagonists of the barbarities that occurred during the Second World War, she coined the expression “the banality of evil”. By this expression, she did not mean to suggest that those responsible for barbaric acts (torture, murder, rape, massive extinction) were innocent and should not be brought to trial and condemned. What she wanted to point out was that these acts were not the result of an exceptional capacity for human cruelty and that, ultimately, the criminal acts had been perpetrated within the framework of a system: an industrial and bureaucratic regime of mass murder, geared to exterminating human beings.

Those responsible for the barbarity had acted in compliance with orders, plans and rules, without stopping to think, without reflection, without questioning what they were doing or their responsibilities. Somehow, they found their practices to be something “normal”.  “Evil” was not, thus, a human affair, but a systemic result: an apparatus, an engineering part, a set of guidelines for action with no need for legitimization.

In addressing the problem of the banality of evil, Hanna Arendt, who was harshly criticised for this idea, proposed a radical departure from the idea that human nature was either essentially good (Rousseau and the bon sauvage)  or essentially bad (Hobbes and “man as a wolf to man), and underlined the complexity of the historical, social, cultural and political conditions (the human condition) in order to then warn of the need to pay careful attention to the banalisation of evil in order to prevent it from happening again.  

Seventy years after the end of World War II, a one hour news programme on TV suffices for us to see that, far from disappearing, the banality of evil seems to have intensified. On the other hand, a chance to watch children socialising will also inform us that in differing degrees, and with different consequences –without the aberration brought by war–, boys and girls are capable of carrying out acts of cruelty that are banal.

Why don’t human societies ever stop and think about cruelty? Why is it so hard for us humans to think about everything we do every day, voluntarily or involuntarily, where cruelty manifests itself in more or less harmful ways? And what could be done to think about these issues together with the new generations where boys and girls carry out or anticipate acts of cruelty of varying degrees and different forms?

I know we cannot compare the act of torturing a person to death and such “childhood mischiefs” as making a toad puff smoke until it explodes or squashing ants, but I think that if us humans are going to be cruel, we had better at the very least be aware that we are cruel, and be aware of the ways in which we are cruel. It may help us to correct ourselves.  

“Got you!”, card with cruelty scene included  in Cruelty Bites , Visual Philosophy for Children by Wonder Ponder.

“Got you!”, card with cruelty scene included in Cruelty Bites, Visual Philosophy for Children by Wonder Ponder.

In this regard, today I’d like to introduce you to a title that aims to raise awareness of cruelty and its various forms. To visualise the problem. Talk about it. Think about it. Reflect upon it.

The first title from the Wonder Ponder “Visual Philosophy for Children” imprint offers us a recipe for this: even though, we are warned, there are no real recipes.

Ingredients:

- one box, 17 x 17 cm.

- 14 cards with scenes containing a brief illustrated narration about cruelty on the front and lots of questions on the back

- 3 cards for creating scenes of one’s own

- 1 card with ideas for wonderpondering

- 1 card with a brief guide of essential concepts to be sprinkled on all the above

- 1 poster for hanging on your bedroom wall and look at while we are digesting.

Directions:

One of the sides of the box says Open, look, think. In any case, I imagine the order can vary. For instance: look, open, think. Or think, look, open. Or open, think, look… And thus successively and alternately, as guests wish.

As to myself, before opening the box, I realised that it is a very well designed affair, which I then verified upon opening it and finding the ingredients listed above. The line of design brings to play a comprehensive communication project. Idea, concept, texts, images, illustrations, ways of use, suggestions for appropriation, ways of sharing, goals, target readers and questions: over one hundred more or less open questions.

And when I say ‘bring to play’ this is no metaphor. The Cruelty Bites box can be used as a board game of sorts. And this is great, because there is a great deal of ‘game’ to it. But it’s not long before we realise that there is also a great deal of ‘book’ to it, and not only because of the ISBN featured on one of the cards containing information about the authors and the project, but also because of all the editing work behind this Visual Philosophy for Children project: it is a book where the pages are not bound to give the power to the reader to define and change the reading order.

“Cruelty Bites”. Visual Philosophy for Children. Wonder Ponder Project. Texts by Ellen Duthie. Illustrations by Daniela Martagón.   Publisher: Traje de Lobo, Madrid, Spain, 2014.

“Cruelty Bites”. Visual Philosophy for Children. Wonder Ponder Project. Texts by Ellen Duthie. Illustrations by Daniela Martagón. Publisher: Traje de Lobo, Madrid, Spain, 2014.

he cards show very different cruelty scenes, ranging from the image of a lion devouring a goat to a girl squashing ants, or a scene of school bullying. The scenes are illustrated in an expressionist style, with a touch of art naïf, very much in the line of 1980s punk fanzines. I think the illustrations, by Daniela Martagón, are very appropriate for children, especially considering that they are expected to engage in the creation of new cruelty scenes of their own. Under the illustrated scenes, a brief caption (one or two lines) makes one of the illustrated characters speak, reinforcing with words the act of cruelty represented in the illustration.

On the back of the card there is a set of very direct questions, sufficiently close to the world and daily lives of children, purposefully set out in no particular order, so as not to systematise a discourse. These questions seek to prompt a broad and deep discussion on the act of cruelty illustrated on the front, a discussion which, following the Socratic method, promotes conversation and listening, allows the expression of agreement and disagreement and encourages giving reasons to justify opinions:

Does punishment work? Do you think punishment is cruel? Always? Or is it sometimes OK? Is it always cruel to make someone do something they don’t want to do? Can animals be cruel? Has anyone ever laughed at you when you have fallen or had an accident of some sort? Would you like to live in a zoo? If the huntsman killed Snow White, who would be responsible for her death? The huntsman or the queen? Are some lives worth more than others? Is there a difference between eating chicken and eating cat? Have you ever killed something by accident? How did you feel? Is it possible to be cruel to oneself? Where is the line between playful teasing and being cruel?

Front (illlustrration) and back (questions) of one of the 14 cards with Cruelty Bites scenes”

Front (illlustrration) and back (questions) of one of the 14 cards with Cruelty Bites scenes”

As I was saying, the project has a very well thought out design. It is evident that it reflects and incorporates extensive experience working with children, bringing philosophy to them, which is what one of the authors of Cruelty Bites, the writer Ellen Duthie has been doing for years. For the last two years, she has been offering her work to the public through one of her blogs: Filosofía a la de tres.

It is also evident that Cruelty Bites is the result of another side of the author’s work, that is very much part of the best of Children’s Literature, whereby she stands well away far from confusing literature and self-help, or self-help and “emotional literacy” (sic) with this proposal of bringing philosophical reflection to the young, to play thinking and think playing, to encourage reflection and dialogue without indoctrinating, seeking to stimulate “their own thoughts and arguments and to build a visual and conceptual map of the issue addressed”, as it says under the box of the game or, in other words, on the back cover of the book.

In my view, this visual philosophy for children proposal (it is recommended for ages 8 and over but I think it could be used for younger children) aids the mis-en-scene of the different issues addressed; after cruelty, which is the theme of this first title, themes for future titles include personal identity, possibility and impossibility, freedom, reality and imagination, happiness and the meaning of life. Cruelty Bites marks the beginning of an ambitious project which, I am sure, will succeed, because it is contagious of enthusiasm and addresses a need to speak with children, a need that is increasingly felt in homes and educational settings.

And I have to say, this book-game, certainly got me hooked. Not only did I spend a long time thinking about cruelty, I also illustrated and created my own scene on one of the cards included for this purpose:

My own “Cruelty Bites” scene: “But all I did was call you names!”: and on the back, some questions: What is more cruel, to call someone names or to hit them? Is it OK to respond to name-calling with a good punch?; How do you feel when someone calls you names?; How do you feel when you hit someone?; Is it sometimes justified to hit someone?

My own “Cruelty Bites” scene: “But all I did was call you names!”: and on the back, some questions: What is more cruel, to call someone names or to hit them? Is it OK to respond to name-calling with a good punch?; How do you feel when someone calls you names?; How do you feel when you hit someone?; Is it sometimes justified to hit someone?

Yes, I know, I know, I’m no good at drawing. But this was so I could continue with the game, with the project and with my enthusiasm…

This is an English translation of a review by Germán Machado originally published in Spanish on November 26, 2014 on the blog Garabatos y Ringorrangos.