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A Sneetch is a Sneetch and Other Philosophical Discoveries: Finding Wisdom in Children's Literature



A Sneetch is a Sneetch and Other Philosophical Discoveries: Finding Wisdom in Children's Literature

Thomas E. Wartenberg

ISBN: 978-1-118-54506-5 February 2013 Wiley-Blackwell 176 Pages


Taking Picture Books Seriously: What can we learn about philosophy through children's books?

This warm and charming volume casts a spell on adult readers as it unveils the surprisingly profound philosophical wisdom contained in children's picture books, from Dr Seuss's Sneetches to William Steig's Shrek!. With a light touch and good humor, Wartenberg discusses the philosophical ideas in these classic stories, and provides parents with a practical starting point for discussing philosophical issues with their children. Accessible and multi-layered, it answers questions like, Is it okay for adults to deceive kids? What's the difference between saying the Mona Lisa is a great painting and vanilla is your favorite flavor? Each chapter includes illustrations commissioned especially for this book.

Acknowledgments ix

‘‘Why? Why? Why?’’: Children, Philosophy, and Picture Books 1

1 Harold and the Purple Crayon: Can You Get Wet Swimming in an Imaginary Ocean? 7

2 The Important Book: Is a Leopard without Its Spots Still a Leopard? 16

3 Shrek!: Could a Dead Skunk Smell Good? 24

4 Let’s Do Nothing!: Can You Just Do Nothing at All? 33

5 Knuffle Bunny: How Do You Know I’m Angry If I Don’t Say So? 42

6 Many Moons: Do Experts Really Know More? 48

7 Yellow and Pink: Could Human Life Have Arisen Purely by Chance? 55

8 Morris the Moose: How Do You Know When You’ve Made a Mistake? 63

9 Emily’s Art: What’s the Difference between Saying the Mona Lisa Is a Great Painting and Vanilla Is Your Favorite Flavor? 71

10 Miss Nelson Is Missing!: Is It Okay for Adults to Deceive Kids? 81

11 The Giving Tree: How Can It Be Wrong to Give Someone What They Want? 90

12 ‘‘Cookies’’: What Good Is Having Will-Power If You Don’t Have Any More Cookies? 100

13 Frederick: Can You Enjoy Doing Something Even If It’s Work? 109

14 The Sneetches: Isn’t It All Right to Discriminate in Choosing Your Friends? 116

15 The Paper Bag Princess:What’s Wrong with ‘‘Living Happily Ever After’’? 125

16 The Big Orange Splot: Is There Anything Wrong with Conformity? 132

Taking Picture Books Seriously 142

Who’s Who: Thumbnail Biographies of the Philosophers 145

What’s What: Key Philosophical Terms 156

Next Steps: Additional Philosophical Picture Books 160

More Next Steps: Digging Deeper into Philosophy 163

“This is a great resource for those interested in pre-college philosophy and in elementary education, and for parents generally.  It also will be useful to upper-level philosophy and education students looking for novel approaches within their disciplines.  Summing Up: Highly recommended.  Lower-level undergraduates and above; general readers.”  (Choice, 1 November 2013)

"Filled with humor and keen insights, A Sneetch is a Sneetch and other Philosophical Discoveries is essential reading for anyone with an interest in philosophy or children's literature - and by anyone, I mean anyone - from the mom or dad looking for something interesting to read to their toddler, to writers of every ilk, and yes, even full fledge, academically inclined philosophers. Happy pondering!!."  (History in Review, 3 June 2013)