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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: Wonder Ponder

Cruelty declared apt for children

Ellen Duthie

Yesterday this fantastic review by Kim Kindermann of the German edition of Cruelty Bites published this month by Moritz Verlag (Grausame Welt?) was aired on German public radio Deutschlandfunk Kultur.

Here is a translation of the review. Long live Grausame Welt?!

Far from your typical read-aloud book for children:  Cruelty Bites , by Ellen Duthie and Daniela Martagón, approaches the subject in a playful way. (Moritz Verlag / imago / Westend61)

Far from your typical read-aloud book for children: Cruelty Bites, by Ellen Duthie and Daniela Martagón, approaches the subject in a playful way. (Moritz Verlag / imago / Westend61)

Deutschlandfunk Kultur

 LESART. 26.02.2019

Kim Kindermann

 Cruel situations and scenes, described and illustrated by two authors: Cruelty Bites invites children to think about good and evil. A very successful book about a very difficult subject, in our reviewer’s opinion.

"Let’s try pinching very hard. Any reaction?” says the card, showing a boy tied down to a table. The scientists experimenting on the child are rats. On another card, a man has been locked up in a cellar by a group of children. "Now you stay down here and think very carefully about what you’ve just done!" they say. And on another card, a girl is biting her own arm.

Three scenes, three cards. Three of a total of 20. All of them are square. On one side, we see a cruel situation: a girl kills an ant, some lions eat a goat, a mother and father serve a stew made with cat meat, some children pull a girl’s hair, a father holds down his son firmly to give him a shower. On the back of each card, lots of questions on the theme.

 Off with the rose-tinted glasses!

Philosopher Ellen Duthie doesn’t actually offer any answers as to what cruelty is. She asks where cruelty starts, what about the victims, what about the perpretrators, and whether an act might be less serious if it doesn’t last too long.

 Step by step we are invited to analyse the situation. The focus is always on the questions. What do you find cruel about it? Have you ever experienced a similar situation?

It is demanding. Ellen Duthie does not only ask children to deal with this difficult problem; she also tells them cruelty exists. So off with the rose-tinted glasses"! The world isn’t all pretty.

But should we ask children questions? Yes, we should! Because children live in this world, with all its shadows too; children see and also experience situations that are not easy. The sooner they learn to classify situations, to give them a name and understand their own feelings, the sooner they might try to avoid being cruel. Here, that happens because they are allowed to experience different situations playfully.

 Dialogue and reasoning about violence

But also because these cards invite readers to comment. Unlike your typical read-aloud book for children, here exchange and reasoning occurs. That is good. The format also contributes to this.

The cards allow several children at the same time to engage in dialogue about different aspects of cruelty and to reason with each other. Duthie manages to make you want to speak about a subject that many would rather avoid altogether.

Daniela Martagón’s illustrations are also a great success in this regard. On the one hand, they are simple, in black and white on a colour background, and reminiscent of cartoons. On the other hand, they play with the absurd as a mechanism of distance. Like the rats, that keep the children in cages as test subjects. Or the girl who bites herself, and whose enormous sharp teeth seem to belong more in the mouth of the cat that is standing opposite her, with its hair standing on end.

 Illustrations that don’t miss a beat

There’s nothing pretty or cute about the illustrations, which clearly hone in on the cruelty of the content. This is stressed further by the bright background colours: pink, orange, blue, green and yellow. They act like a flag: Attention! This is important!

And yes, this book of cards is important. Let’s state it clearly: children ought to be taken seriously. We can and should speak about subjects such as cruelty with them, philosophise with them.  

What is more, we can start early on, with no rush: Cruelty Bites is perfect for preschoolers and primary age children. What is ok and what is not? Where are the limits and to what extent can they shift? It is never to early to start talking about all of this.

Ellen Duthie, Daniela Martagón: Cruelty Bites / Mundo cruel
German edition translated from the Spanish by Paula Peretti 
Moritz Verlag, Frankfurt / Main 2019 

 

Original German review here.

"PINCH ME!" is here! Take a peek! The fourth title in the Visual Philosophy for Children series invites readers to explore reality, imagination and dreaming

Ellen Duthie

PinchMe_Magia_escena.png

Pinch Me! [together with its versions in Spanish (¡Pellízcame!) and Catalan Pessiga’m!], the latest title in the Wonder Ponder series of Visual Philosophy for Children (and adults) has just arrived from the printers.  

pinchMe_portada_RGB.jpg
pinchMe_contra_RGB.jpg

In this fourth title in the series, authors Ellen Duthie (writer) and Daniela Martagón (illustrator) invite people of all ages, small, medium and big,  to wonder and ponder about reality, imagination and dreaming in a way that is both playfully serious and seriously playful. What is real and what is not quite so real?  

Pinch Me am I dreaming.png

Containing fourteen illustrated scenes designed to prompt wondering and pondering, Pinch Me! invites younger and older readers to explore a range of intriguing aspects about reality, imagination and dreaming, including the differences between real and pretend, real and alive, our senses and what they can (and can't) tell us about the world, and to wonder whether we could be dreaming or not. It also contains scenes that are likely to spark wondering and pondering about magic, virtual reality, fiction and reality, fake news and representation in selfies, in a way that is both relatable and destabilising, as well as riveting for a very broad age range, from age 6 to adults. 

As all Wonder Ponder fans out there know, every box contains a poster. This is normally a chance for illustrator Daniela Martagón to explore the theme of the box freely and sometimes wildly. This time both authors, writer and illustrator, have joined forces and gone wild, to create what is effectively a book within the book: Little Remo in Pinchmeland. A tribute to Sendak's' In the Night Kitchen ,which was in turn a homage to Winsor McCay's Little Nemo in Slumberland comic strips, this read-aloud comic on a poster takes Little Remo through dreamlike scenarios made up of elements from the 14 scenes in Pinch Me! and other literary scenes, making readers wonder whether or not he's dreaming and, perhaps, whether they are themselves dreaming. 

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After Cruelty Bites (2014), I, Person (2015) and Whatever You Want (2016), and the success of the Wonder Ponder Visual Philosophy for Children's project not only in Spain, where the books are published originally, but also , thanks to the sale of foreign rights, in South Korea, Argentina, Mexico, Brazil and Germany, we took some time to digest everything that had happened since the launch of the Wonder Ponder imprint in November 2014. We took the time to step back and make sure that we knew where we were and where we wanted to go.  The pace of our project does not need to follow and would not benefit from following the pace of the publishing market. The research requires time, the creative process requires time, the testing with different age groups and ensuing reconsideration takes time. Slow publishing? That's us!

We are working to create a lasting collection, one that reaches other countries and languages and one which several generations of children and adults might hopefully enjoy. 

At a time where most of the voices we hear boom out answers and statements about the ways things are and the way they should be, it is more urgent than ever to develop the habit of owning, sharing and exploring our uncertainties. 

That is part of what we aim to do, with both a literary and a philosophical interest at heart, in the Wonder Ponder series of Visual Philosophy for Children. That is what we have done, with equal measures of rigour and playfulness in Pinch Me!

We hope you enjoy it! 

Readers outside Spain can purchase a copy online

More about 

PINCH ME!

What if life is a dream? 
An illusion?
Or a good old story?
When you pinch yourself, does it hurt?
And does the pain prove you are not dreaming?

 Can we trust our senses?
If our eyes sometimes trick us, might they always trick us?
How do we know that the world is as we perceive it and not as a fly or a dog sees it?

If you could connect to a machine that made you live and feel only good things, would you want to connect to it forever?

What is real? And what is not so real?
What do you think?

Half-way between a book and a game, Pinch Me! comes in a box and invites readers aged eight and over (adults too!) to think about reality, imagination and dream in a way that is both serious and seriously fun.

Part of the critically acclaimed Wonder Ponder, Visual Philosophy for Children series, Pinch Me! is designed for children to look at, read and think playfully about by themselves, accompanied by an adult or in a group, in educational, play or family contexts.

Themes:  reality ·  imagination ·  dream ·   memory ·   the five senses ·   perception ·   fiction/reality ·  real/pretend  ·   reliable information ·  real/virtual ·   philosophy for children.

Content
·   14 illustrated scenes.
·   More than 100 carefully worded questions designed to spark a rich and well-oriented reflection without leading it to pre-established conclusions.
·   3 blank cards for readers to design their own philosophical scenes and pose their own questions.
·   Brief guide for children and adults.
·   Ideas for wonderpondering. Suggestions for use.
·   A-3 thematic poster: Little Remo in Pinchmeland

About The Wonder Ponder Visual Philosophy for Children series
Wonder Ponder introduces readers to philosophy’s big questions in a way that is playful and appealing. Engaging scenes and intriguing questions prompt reflection and discussion, encouraging children to develop their own thoughts and arguments and to build a visual and conceptual map of the issue addressed in each box.

Interested in learning more about the Visual Philosophy for Children series by Wonder Ponder? Check out our website and our online shop

Seriously, now. Be honest. Wouldn't you have killed Snow White?

Ellen Duthie

Scene on cruelty and (dis)obedience to authority   included in Wonder Ponder's first   Visual Philosophy for Children box,   Cruelty Bites  ,  . Illustration by Daniela Martagón.

Scene on cruelty and (dis)obedience to authority included in Wonder Ponder's first Visual Philosophy for Children box, Cruelty Bites,. Illustration by Daniela Martagón.

Many examples of extraordinary cruelty, both in history and happening right now as we speak, are the result of a group of reasonably 'normal' people being given orders by one or several rather 'nasty' people.

Other examples of extraordinary cruelty are the result of a less clear order of events, where a person or group of people takes on or carries on with a given 'way of doing things' (doing certain things or not doing certain other things), that leads to extraordinary cruelty executed as part of the package and not really thought about.

A variant of this last situation is a scenario where one is cruel with someone else as a way of fitting in or conforming to peer pressure. If all my friends at school think Mary is X, Y and Z and treat her cruelly, it's easy to be carried by the inertia of it all and take part more or less actively in the cruelty, or maybe just as a passive onlooker (perhaps also an enabler?).

Why is it that our sense of obedience is sometimes stronger than our sense of duty to behave decently to other people?

When should we disobey or disregard authority?

Are there any situations where we are not free to disobey authority?

What does it take to disobey authority?

Are we responsible for acts of cruelty perpretrated at the order of someone else -a person or an institution-? Or is the person or institution giving the order the only one responsible?

Does fear for our own safety justify being cruel to others? Would killing Snow White be somehow 'understandable', given the possible consequences for the huntsman at the hands of the queen?

How often are the following statements really true?
"I had no choice but to do it."
"I can't change the way things work around here."
"If I stand up for Mary, everyone will start being cruel to me too."

Even if they are true, would they be a reasonable justification for cruelty?

One of the most interesting philosophical -and psychological- questions about cruelty is how it is possible that perfectly 'normal' people ('normal' on a scale of perceived cruelty) are quite capable of behaving in extraordinarily cruel ways out of a desire to please authority or fit in. Our need to obey or conform, it would seem, is often stronger than our need to avoid being cruel to others.

Wonder Ponder's first Visual Philosophy for Children box, Cruelty Bites, prompts these questions, together with others, aiming to provide a 'visual map of cruelty' for children (and adults!) for them to build their own 'philosophical map of cruelty'.

Text by Ellen Duthie, illustration by Daniela Martagón. 

(c) Wonder Ponder (An imprint of Traje de lobo S.L.).

Grandma had eaten cat: a report on the Wonder Ponder presentation at Ilustratour

Ellen Duthie

Zooming in on our 'cat stew' scene. 

Zooming in on our 'cat stew' scene. 

On July 8th, illustrator Daniela Martagón presented in public for the first time the 'visual philosophy for children' project Wonder Ponder. The presentation took place at Casa de José Zorrilla in Valladolid, within the framework of the International Illustration Festival Ilustratour.

Presentation of Wonder Ponder at Ilustratour, Valladolid. July 2014. The image on the screen at the back shows a lion holding a goat in its jaw while its cubs await hungrily. Are animals cruel? 

Presentation of Wonder Ponder at Ilustratour, Valladolid. July 2014. The image on the screen at the back shows a lion holding a goat in its jaw while its cubs await hungrily. Are animals cruel? 

 

Attendants included many illustrators, the odd publisher and, to Daniela's initial suprise, a group of grandmothers with their grandchildren who thought they were coming to a children's event. After her initial nerves, and reshaping her presentation plan to suit the actual crowd before her , Daniela got started. 

For some time now, we have been aware that the best way of explaining and "selling" our project is for it to be seen in action, and that is what happened magically and spontaneously in Valladolid on the day of the presentation.  

Daniela herself recounts the experience in detail:  

Daniela took specially designed cards for the event, showing our cat stew scene, with plenty of questions from all angles at the back. 

Daniela took specially designed cards for the event, showing our cat stew scene, with plenty of questions from all angles at the back. 

 

I was already slightly nervous, but when I saw such an incredibly varied audience, comprised of local kids and grandmas, illustrators from across the world and people who'd just dropped in to have a nose about, I got even more nervous. I had prepared for a "highly professional" interview/talk aimed at illustrators and perhaps a couple of booksellers or publishers.  

My fear was that I would frighten away the assistants who thought they had come to a children's activity. So I took a deep breath and decided to go for it, starting out strong with our cat stew, the scene on the cover of Cruelty Bites, the first Wonder Ponder box launching at the end of the year. 

fter handing out copies of this scene, it wasn't long before the murmurs started, and then the occasional giggle among the audience, and I'm glad to say, for me, this made the tension disappear as if by magic.  

I asked what was going on in the scene. The response was rather timid to start with, although everyone's eyes were wide open. Then the first answers arrived: "Those people are about to eat a cat!" And I asked whether anyone in the room had ever eaten cat stew?"Nooooooo!", the reply was unanimous. "Why not?", I asked. "It's disgusting", said one kid. "But how do you know? Have you ever tried it?", I asked.

"I have", a grandmother sitting in the third row said casually. "And it was good too".  

The audience busy looking at the scene and the intriguing questions on the back.

The audience busy looking at the scene and the intriguing questions on the back.

Many of us were rather taken aback. "It was during the war and we were hungry", she added. Another of the grandmothers then spoke. "It´s true, they'd often say it was rabbit stew or something else, but who knows how often we've actually eaten cat?". 

Suddenly, what only a few moments ago had seemed to us a unanimous no-no, became a memory for some and a potential reality for the rest of us. And this opened up new questions. If cat is yummy, why don't we usually eat it? Why do we think it's cruel to kill some animals and not others? What would we never ever eat? "Insects", said someone. I said that in some places in Mexico 'chalupines' (grasshoppers) are toasted and eaten, all nice and crispy, and maguey worms make a very elegant dish indeed. "I think they're delicious". Many pulled a disgusted face, but they didn't think there was anything wrong in doing it.  

"What about eating humans?", I asked. "¡No!" "Never ever?" We sat there thinking and then remembered those stories of people in accidents in isolated places who find themselves in desperate and extreme conditions, with no access to food whatsoever. "In that case it's different, because it's about survival", said one of the girls in the audience. We felt this reply was decent and many of us agreed that the situation changes depending on the circumstances.  

However, it is not always out of need that we kill. Sometimes it has nothing to do with that at all. "Would you like to see another scene?" "Yes!" So we showed our ant-killing girl on the screen.  

Daniela was brave to admit she had killed an ant or two in her life. 

Daniela was brave to admit she had killed an ant or two in her life. 

I asked whether anyone in the room had ever killed ants like the girl. Oddly enough, none of the children present said anything, but all the adults there, including myself, raised their hands and giggled. One boy said it was never right to kill ants. Someone said it was justified if they came into our pantry. Another boy said ants were useless, they had no purpose. One man said that anteaters do need ants to feed themselves. But none of us remembered having seen any anteaters around Valladolid. 

Is it ok to kill things that are uselesss or have no purpose? Many said it wasn't. However, we do so very often. Why?  

In order to speak a little about the origins of Wonder Ponder, I then asked "What is philosophy?" Nobody said a word. "Has anyone ever heard of the word philosophy before?" Utter silence. "Perhaps some of the adults here studied philosophy at school?" The audience remained in silence. It seems the word philosophy is slightly intimidating. So I shared part of what philosophy means for me: asking questions, thinking about why we think what we think and comparing it with what other people think or have thought in the past.  

I then asked the audience if they thought what we had done that afternoon was of any use. Is asking philosophical questions of any use? Many said yes: "it's a way of sharing" said some; "it helps us improve our thinking", said others; "it's also a good way of getting to know each other better", said someone else. I asked the children present whether they had thought these questions were too hard. "No", they replied. I told them that since we started the project, some people (by no means all) had said to us that we couldn't hand those materials to children without giving them the answers, and that, in any case, an adult would have to be present, because on their own they might get afraid or become traumatised. 

I asked the children if they had felt afraid when they saw these images. The all said no. "If you found this box at home, would you have a look at it on your own?" One girl said that if it was someone else's property she wouldn't open it. "What about if it were your box?" I asked. "Oh, yes, in that case, I would open it", she replied. Why are adults so scared of children asking themselves these questions, when children are anything but scared by them? 

One of the boys had the courage to get up and come up to us to take a better look at the Cruelty Bites box, and even took it with him to his seat to browse through all the contents. 

This boy was curious to look at, touch and read through the  Cruelty Bites  box.

This boy was curious to look at, touch and read through the Cruelty Bites box.

On the scene in the background, a very first sketch of a cover for Wonder Ponder magazine.   

Do you want to see more? The audience all seemed interested in hearing more, so I put on the presentation I had prepared originally. 

I told everyone how Ellen Duthie, Raquel Martínez Uña and I had thought up the name Wonder Ponder and how the idea of the visual philosophy for children boxes had gradually developed. I also showed them how, starting with a series of questions on a particular aspect of cruelty, I came up with an illustration, and then all the changes the illustration went through until getting to the final version.  

We looked at a few more scenes from Cruelty Bites, I showed them all the characters and our little Wonder Ponder man, with his curious eyes. And that was it for the evening.  

Some of the assistants generously left their comments and proposals for issues they would like to see addressed in future Wonder Ponder boxes. 

How can we make the world a better place? /     It unsettles me that the intelligence of animals is measured by how well they obey their owners. Same goes for students and teachers. Thoughts? /   The value of money. Why do some things cost more than others? Is expensive always better? Does free mean poor quality? Who decides the value of things? /   What is art for? /   Take this to schools and teacher training courses /   I think it is an incredible project for children to learn how to think and have a judgement of their own from an early age for them to be free and not fear beign different. This may make lots of adults uneasy, as they lose power over their children, but they should encourage them to be free and curious. /   Scene on violence. /   Why do we ask questions? 

How can we make the world a better place? / It unsettles me that the intelligence of animals is measured by how well they obey their owners. Same goes for students and teachers. Thoughts? / The value of money. Why do some things cost more than others? Is expensive always better? Does free mean poor quality? Who decides the value of things? / What is art for? / Take this to schools and teacher training courses / I think it is an incredible project for children to learn how to think and have a judgement of their own from an early age for them to be free and not fear beign different. This may make lots of adults uneasy, as they lose power over their children, but they should encourage them to be free and curious. / Scene on violence. / Why do we ask questions? 

It was a very pleasant affair and we closed the event with a nice glass of wine in the quiet gardens of Casa de José Zorrilla, with the heat of the day giving way to a welcome evening breeze.

The Casa de José Zorrilla was a stunning setting for the presentation, indoors and outdoors.  

We would like to thank all the fellow illustrators and friends who were able to make it, as well as all the other people in the audience, and in particular the team of Ilustratour for inviting us and accompanying us on our first public presentation. We had a great time and we really enjoyed the opportunity of sharing Cruelty Bites with such a varied and participative crowd of people. I learnt a lot from the experience!

(c) Wonder Ponder (An imprint of Traje de lobo S.L.).

Is it possible to be cruel to oneself?

Ellen Duthie

One of the scenes in Cruelty Bites, our first Wonder Ponder, Visual Philosophy for Children box is about self-cruelty, raising questions such as:

  • Have you ever told yourself off or hurt yourself for something you’ve done? Do you remember why? Do you think you were cruel to yourself? 
  • Do you think people who hurt themselves should be stopped?  
  • Is it possible to be cruel to oneself? If so, who is the victim and who is the aggressor? 
  • Do you think you should punish yourself when you do something you think is bad? 

These are some of the sketches illustrator Daniela Martagón drew, trying to work out what the best representation of self-cruelty might be to include the Wonder Ponder Cruelty Bites box. 

Sketch by Daniela Martagón, preliminary study for  Cruelty Bites  by Wonder Ponder. A) Pull out or pull one's hair. B) Bang head against the wall. C) Not allow oneself any play or enjoyment. D) Insult oneself. E) Slap oneself. F) Bite oneself. G) Not feed oneself. H) Burn oneself.  

Sketch by Daniela Martagón, preliminary study for Cruelty Bites by Wonder Ponder. A) Pull out or pull one's hair. B) Bang head against the wall. C) Not allow oneself any play or enjoyment. D) Insult oneself. E) Slap oneself. F) Bite oneself. G) Not feed oneself. H) Burn oneself.  

And after a great deal of thinking, changing and trying it out, here is the scene that finally made it into the box: 

Wonder Ponder will be launching in November 2014. Stay tuned for more tidbits about it all here. Enjoy.

Cruelty Bites, the first Wonder Ponder box was published on 20 November 2014, World Philosophy Day. The second box, I, Person, will be launching in May 2015. Stay tuned for more news and tidbits. 
 

(c) Wonder Ponder. (An imprint of Traje de Lobo S.L.)

A sketch of the creative process

Ellen Duthie

The creative process behind the Wonder Ponder, Visual Philosophy for Children, boxes is fascinating and rewarding. A philosopher, an illustrator and an editor working together, feeding off each other's suggestions and feeling the thrill of getting it just right.

Each box starts with a description given by the philosopher to the illustrator of a series of scenes mapping a given philosophical topic. Sometimes it's quite detailed and specific, others it's more of a list of the kind of questions the scene should elicit.

Then there's a lot of sketching, a lot of work on the exact composition of the scene, a lot of character work and to-ing and fro-ing, a lot of added suggestions and nuances, many of them philosophically enriching, by the illustrator.

And then philosopher, illustrator and editor sit down and look at it as critically as possible, before showing it to kids and getting teachers to try them out, and tweaking it based on their reaction and interpretation, to make sure they really spark interest and offer sufficient complexity and variety of perspectives for it to lead to sustained and engaged dialogue.

And then comes the text... but for now we just wanted to share a couple of fun character sketches for the zoo scene in the first box in the series, Cruelty Bites, to be launched at the end of the year.

Here is the finalised version:

'Take me with you!'

'Take me with you!'

Now, you see this centipede-ish alien?

He came second in our choice of alien.

See all these other alien sketches and the early sketch of the scene with the tiger facing the other way?

The how many eyes question was a tricky one and the tiger... we just didn't think it worked as well as those deep, sad eyes in the final version.

And it took quite a few efforts to get the boy in the cage just right, as you can see in the last image.

sin título-4.jpg

Nothing's easy, but it's all great fun!

Wonder Ponder will be launching in November. Stay tuned for more tidbits about it all here. Enjoy.

(c) Wonder Ponder. (An imprint of Traje de lobo S.L.).