The Very Hard Book
A&U Children’s, 2022
32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
Can you make up a joke that makes you laugh? Sit in an empty room? Or be somewhere else for a minute?
At first, this book with its short sentences, large font and intriguingly ‘simple’ pictures looks like one of those fun ones that engage young children in the joy of reading through the power of the absurd, And, indeed, it is just that – but a closer look, as well as the diagram on the final endpaper, show that it is so much more.
Because once again, the author of the very popular Do Not Lick This Book , has put his scientific brain to work to create an introduction to the world beyond the words, this time about thinking about thinking. The act of thinking about thinking is known as metacognition and forms the basis of all critical thought. It is also a concept that comes easily to children whose inquisitive nature makes them able to engage in abstract questions and open-ended thinking without the constraints, learning and lenses that the adult brain automatically imposes.
Bunting, who teamed up with Ben-Barak to create We Go Way Back has very cleverly used characters that resemble dendrites , the brain cell’s message receptors, to further emphasise the confusion and complexity of the tasks that seem so simple on the surface.
Some years ago when science made it possible for specialists to really start delving into how people learn, and people like Bob Sylwester, Renate and Geoffrey Caine Eric Jensen and Robin Fogarty began to interpret what this looked like in the classroom providing the foundations for the pedagogies we now use, students were encouraged to think about their thinking, to know how their brains worked and apply that to their learning. And they were engaged and fascinated as they learned about “the magic trees of the mind” . Even though this might not be such a focus now, nevertheless this would be an excellent introduction to get them to start thinking about thinking and stretching and growing their brains beyond the screen and someone else’s imagination.
For surely, if our students are to become critical thinkers, they must first know how and why they think and the influences that play on that.