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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
by Jostein Gaarder
Age Range: 6-8
Questions Asked follows a little boy as he ventures alone out into an open landscape under the night sky. As he journeys through his thoughts and dreams he asks pertinent questions:
“Where does the world come from? Has there always been something here? Or has it all come from nothing?”
Initially his questions appear to be inspired by his surroundings. “Is our planet the only one with life on it?” he asks as a shooting star streaks across the sky. “Could all the stars and planets have been here without anyone knowing about them?”
But as the boy wanders through the dense forest other questions are formulating in his mind. “Can anyone know what I think?” he wonders while digging up a box buried in the woods. “How can I remember things that happened a long time ago?’ ‘Can I be sure that all my memories really happened?”
Questions Asked is an existential thought-provoking book by Norwegian best-selling author Jostein Gaarder, translated by Don Bartlett. Gaarder’s work is well-known, particularly Sophie’s World: A Novel About the History of Philosophy which has been translated into 60 languages.
There are so many special things about this pocket-sized picture book. It is clever, poetic, with a distinct air of melancholy, and it’s filled with difficult and often unanswerable questions. While being simple in concept the questions convey a powerful philosophical message.
Turkish-Norwegian illustrator and children’s author Akin Düzakin’s ethereal artwork reveals much more behind the questions asked. A series of black-and-white illustrations depict the boy’s past revealing the existence of a twin sibling. When the boy asks if there are such things as supernatural beings the accompanying artwork turns sepia as a ghostly figure is shown hiding behind a tree; the figure also appears in other images too. Through the artwork it becomes clear that the boy is processing feelings from his past – loss and grief through death, although it is not mentioned directly in the text.
Fans of Gaarder will love this book. It’s definitely one to treasure; to be delved into again and again. Whilst no answers are provided it will enable naturally inquisitive children (and adults) to discuss and explore their own answers.