Wise Guy: The Life and Philosophy of Socrates

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9780374312497: Wise Guy: The Life and Philosophy of Socrates
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Greek philosophy for kids

"I know that I know nothing."

With this classic statement, uttered over two thousand years ago, Socrates set the standard for the future of Western philosophy. By day, he soaked up the sun in the Athenian marketplace, where he'd converse for hours on end about the meaning of wisdom, right and wrong, courage, justice, and love. By night, he feasted and danced with friends. He was charming, but not handsome, happy, but not rich. Unfortunately, his method of thinking did not sit well with everyone. In the end, his fellow Athenians punished him with death.

The story of Socrates' life unfolds through cheerful illustrations and a two-tiered text, one layer quite simple, the other full of juicy additional details about the philosopher's life and times. The ending assembles a "School of Athens," showcasing thinkers, from Erasmus to Martin Luther King, Jr., who have been inspired by Socrates' philosophy.

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About the Author:

M. D. Usher is a professor of classics at the University of Vermont, and this is his first children's book. He lives in Shoreham, Vermont. William Bramhall is the author and illustrator of one other children's book, Hepcat. He lives in Fairfield, Connecticut.

From School Library Journal:

Grade 2-5–This ambitious attempt to present the life and thinking of this ancient Greek philosopher to young readers does so with mixed results. The text has two tiers. The first layer (presented in a larger font) is, according to the book jacket, quite simple, while the second (presented in smaller print in a scroll-shaped box) is full of juicy additional details. Both sections contain statements that are oversimplifications of complex ideas and require further background or explanation. In one particularly confusing section of the book, the first tier states that Apollo, god of wisdom, loved Socrates dearly. 'No one is as wise, or good, or brave as he,' Apollo said. The other gods agreed. The line between Socrates's beliefs and fact is blurred here and elsewhere. There are, however, many instances where Usher distills the essence of Socrates's thinking into approachable terms, such as in his discussion that compares the idea of the blueprint for a bed to a blueprint for larger concepts: Just as a carpenter with vast knowledge and experience can make a good bed, and in turn be a good carpenter, a person who has studied the blueprint of right and wrong can be a good person. With the exception of some fictionalizing in terms of his subject's childhood, Usher has been careful to use documented sources, and the writing style itself flows reasonably well. Bramhall's amusing cartoons greatly enliven the presentation. Anyone wishing to introduce the field of philosophy to students would find this offering a useful starting point.–Grace Oliff, Ann Blanche Smith School, Hillsdale, NJ
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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