As one who’s always been hazy on the details – given to ballpark figures and rough estimates – I knew The Fuzzy Philosopher by Becky Ances and Ryan Wilson, targeted for 7 to 10 year olds, was aimed at considerably way more or less – let’s say less — than the likes of my middle-age mental fatigued mind. Still, guilty pleasure or not guilty, this second volume of the the Ocalulous Tales Series, meant to impart in fun fashion the life and wisdom of the seminal ancient Greek figure Socrates, remains a pleasure as an educational and enjoyable book for kids-of-all-ages. And here I thought fuzziness was just for math and big dice!
Actually, “fuzzy” comes into play – in all senses of the latter word — when we “Meet the Gang” that makes up the cow-ast of our heroic half-dozen: Kiweenie (a knowledgeable kiwi from New Zealand), Ramses (a rambunctious ram), F.W. (a nervous, flucorder-playing wombat), and others that form the the Moo-Cow Fan Club (MCFC). In this particular boffo chronicle of Greek philosophy and tragedy, the gang takes a “wayback machine”-style excursion, suddenly finding themselves bedecked in robes and in the middle of an ancient Greek market in 399 B.C., aware that they’ve again been drawn into one of the mysterious tales of their very own gruff but lovable, professorial Rhetorical the Oracle.
But everything that’s all Greek for them won’t be all Greek for them much longer – or for the reader, either. The fuzzy Kiweenie’s dream-come-true really does come true for one and all, for one thing, as they go to a meet-and-greet – and then some — with his personal hero, the philosopher Socrates (or SOCK RATES as Ramses calls him early on), and, in addition, the ideal tour guide and Socrates expert Plato.
Not only do Becky and Ryan, through expressive word and emotive art, successfully convey entertainment both funny and smart in the issues surrounding Socrates, but The Fuzzy Philosopher, in perhaps a refreshingly unusual move for a youth-oriented philosophy and biographical tale, appropriately tip the scales at times to shine a light on the account of the trial and death of Socrates. By incorporating how the undue charge against Socrates over the “corruption of the youth” and the execution of Socrates affects our times travelers, the reader gets a “through the MCFC eyes” understanding when a few members feel the power and passion of perceived injustice and one or two, unwittingly or not, intervene in a Socratic manner, especially by finding themselves verbally “questioning everything” during the trials.
Though all is for fun, information, or games, it turns out there may be an unexamined life of the The Fuzzy Philosopher just as essential, enjoyable, and educational. Interwoven throughout the chapters, the drama. and the illustrations are the wide array of activities and philosophical topics in a variety of sidebars containing topics, narratives and features such as “The Love of Wisdom,” “The Scythians,” and “The Greek Look” at Greek architectural columns. I would’ve taken a stab at “Kindness Cookies,” but the best ingredient may not have been “love”: I’m also sure I would defeated the purpose of any altruistic intent by chasing my siblings from the kitchen during the burning… er – baking process. “That Old Greek Genius” gathers up some common devices you would never have thought were ancient Greek inventions, like the alarm clock, and the vending machine. And the explanation for “Plato’s Cave” would’ve been a much less shadowy experience, giving me a head start before I had to learn about it whenever It was I was I had to learn abut it.
In fact, had a motivating and inspiring book such as this, and if a series such as Oraculous Tales existed back during by upbringing — being raised in caves as I seem to recall – the whole informative and stimulating book would have made for front line fun for my educational advantage.