Skip to main content
Ages 13+
Under 13
Cartoon drawing of two fish in fishbowls

Big Questions from Little People


Great contemporary thinkers answer scientific, metaphysic, and impossible questions, in a language children can understand.

This is the kind of book that makes us want to have a child, a nephew or a child-friend, so we can give it to them (without erasing the possibility of giving it to ourselves). Gemma Elwin Harris chose the best questions, formulated by thousands of children between the ages of four and twelve years of age, to be answered by experts on each subject. Big Questions from Little People & Simple Answers from Great Minds is an enchanting journey into the paths of knowledge, in a simple vocabulary. Some of the questions are:

Do animals have feelings?

Why can’t I tickle myself?

Who is God?

Why do we dream?

Why are we all made of stardust?

Among the distinguished men and women who answer these, and many other questions, we can find Noam Chomsky the linguist, the authors May Roach and Phillip Pullman, Chef Gordon Ramsay, the adventurer Bear Gryllis, and the evolutionist Richard Dawkins, who, by the way, has a similar book, addressing children: The Magic of Reality.

In the book, the British novelist Jeanette Winterson gives this answer to the question “Why do we fall in love?”

You don’t fall in love like you fall in a hole. You fall like falling through space. It’s like you jump off your own private planet to visit someone else’s planet. And when you get there it all looks different: the flowers, the animals, the colours people wear. It is a big surprise falling in love because you thought you had everything just right on your own planet, and that was true, in a way, but then somebody signalled to you across space and the only way you could visit was to take a giant jump. Away you go, falling into someone else’s orbit and after a while you might decide to pull your two planets together and call it home. And you can bring your dog. Or your cat. Your goldfish, hamster, collection of stones, all your odd socks. (The ones you lost, including the holes, are on the new planet you found.)

And you can bring your friends to visit. And read your favourite stories to each other. And the falling was really the big jump that you had to make to be with someone you don’t want to be without. That’s it.

PS You have to be brave.

Science, history and imagination come together in these pages. They are the perfect complement for the rigidity of school education, a varied source of knowledge in simple words that everybody can understand. Childhood curiosity, as evidenced in this experiment, can be as transcendental as the most essential philosophical problems.

This is a work similar to The Dangerous Book for Boys by Hal Igguiden and A Little History of the World by Ernst Gombrich, written in Vienna in 1935 and later prohibited by the Nazi regime for being too pacifist. Or to The Where, the Why, and the How: 75 Artists Illustrate Wondrous Mysteries of Science, by Julia Rothman, Jenny Volvovski and Matt Lamothe, one of the favourite books of Maria Popova, the creator of Brainpickings.

Related Articles