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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

The Very Hard Book by Idan Ben-Barak


Can you ... Forget this line? Dig half a hole? Sit in an empty room? The Very Hard Book asks readers to imagine and think about things. Sounds easy right?

Metacognition is the act of thinking about thinking and forms the basis of critical thought. This book offers up an adorable introduction to the concept for our younger readers. A child's inquisitive nature makes them a natural at engaging in abstract questions and open-ended thinking. This book offers up intriguing and comical activities that illuminate the capacities and limitations of the human mind.


Each page poses a different question or instruction. The back end pages offer up a 'hard gallery' where each paradox is explored in a little more detail. Cognitive phenomena including the Liar’s Paradox and the Stroop Effect are explained but the paradoxes are still fun without theoretical explanation.


It is a wonderful read-aloud book for families and teachers. While aimed at younger readers, about lower primary level, its appeal is universal. I took our copy to school and didn't see it for hours as it was passed around the senior room. The conversations and questions, all driven by the students themselves, was fascinating.


Illustrator Philip Bunting adds to the creative and critical thinking theme of the book. Drawing heavily on surrealism, Bunting references M C Escher's Waterfall for the cover of the book, giving readers a hint of what to expect.


Bunting also makes nods to other surrealist greats, including Rene Magritte and Salvador Dali, to make the book a visual delight.


The Very Hard Book starts children, and adults alike, on a 'thinking' journey with a whole heap of fun thrown in.

Reviewer: Rebekah Lyell

Allen & Unwin

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