Gilbert Filbert and his big MAD box

By: Ian Gilbert , Andy Gilbert


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Products specifications
Attribute name Attribute value
Size: 174 x 124mm
Pages : 96
ISBN : 9781781352540
Format: Hardback
Published: November 2016

Gilbert Filbert and his big MAD box, by Ian Gilbert and Andy Gilbert, is the story of one boy’s desire to make a difference and help his mother find her smile again. It is a book about a boy, a box and a battle for a penguin but, more than that, it is a tale about families, hope and how to make dreams come true.

When Gilbert’s school project challenges him to ‘make a difference’, grandma introduces him to the mysterious big MAD box. Each of the sides helps Gilbert to focus on a different aspect of the challenge: setting a goal, identifying the reasons behind the goal, developing self-belief, possibility thinking, making a plan and taking action. Finally, Gilbert learns to appreciate what’s inside and celebrate his unique qualities and attributes, which have helped him to succeed at his challenge. As grandma tells Gilbert, any problem is really an opportunity in a hat. The story is deliberately split into short chapters, each relating to a step in the thinking process. The resources provided mean readers can plan to make a difference of their own and develop their possibility thinking.

Drawing on proven thinking and success strategies used by leading businesses and organisations, this entertaining, accessible and humorous book is designed to show young people the power of having a goal, having a plan and making a difference.

A goal without a plan, they say, is just a wish. This book has been written especially for young people to show them how to set about turning wishes into reality by applying the sorts of planning tools usually only found in big business.

The powerful set of thinking tools included in this book will help young people to develop habits of mind that will last a lifetime. The book can be read on a number of levels:

  • as an amusing story
  • as a method for developing young people’s own thinking process
  • as a tool for engaging groups of young people in their thinking
  • all of the above

The book also includes a Gilbert Filbert big MAD box which you can cut out, or download and print, together with a finger questions sheet (this will make sense once you have read the book!).

Suitable for young people (aged 11+) to use on their own thinking adventures. Also suitable for parents, teachers or anyone working with teenagers who wants to join in the journey.

Click here to download and print the big MAD box and finger questions sheet from our website.

To find out more, visit:

Picture for author Ian Gilbert

Ian Gilbert

Since establishing Independent Thinking 25 years ago, Ian Gilbert has made a name for himself across the world as a highly original writer, editor, speaker, practitioner and thinker, and is someone who the IB World magazine has referred to as one of the world's leading educational visionaries.

The author of several books, and the editor of many more, Ian is known by thousands of teachers and young people across the world for his award-winning Thunks books. Thunks grew out of Ian's work with Philosophy for Children (P4C), and are beguiling yet deceptively powerful little philosophical questions that he has created to make children's – as well as their teachers' – brains hurt.

Ian's growing collection of bestselling books has a more serious side too, without ever losing sight of his trademark wit and straight-talking style. The Little Book of Bereavement for Schools, born from personal family experience, is finding a home in schools across the world, and The Working Class – a massive collaborative effort he instigated and edited – is making a genuine difference to the lives of young people from some of the poorest backgrounds.

A unique writer and editor, there is no other voice like Ian Gilbert's in education today.

See for yourself.

Ian was winner of The Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society's inaugural Educational Writers Award (Nov 2008) for 'The Little Book of Thunks' - Click here for more information on the book.

Re-framing the Education Debate with Independent Thinker, Ian Gilbert.

Click here to read Ian Gilbert’s blog.

Click here to read Ian's article in International Teacher Magazine.

Picture for author Andy Gilbert

Andy Gilbert

Andy Gilbert developed the acclaimed Go MAD (Make A Difference) thinking system which is used by people in over 40 countries. He is passionate about helping people develop their ability to think in a solution focused way and spends most of his time facilitating leadership and results acceleration programmes.


  1. This is a stimulating, thought-provoking and engaging story which will stimulate -˜possibility thinking' and motivate learners of all ages to raise their aspirations. The verbal interactions between Gilbert and Grandma encourage self-reflection by the reader in terms of motivational strategies on the theme, “If you have a big what you're going to need a pretty big why to go with it”.

    The structure of the book with short, sharply focused chapters with the additional box templates and finger questions sheets all add to the value of the text in promoting effective thinking strategies.

    It was pleasing to note that Grandma had the final word, “No matter what you achieve in life, it's what's inside that counts, remember that my boy.”

    Altogether, another enthralling text from the Gilbert stable, which should be an asset in every learning mentor and tutor's portfolio of ideas to be more effective.
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  3. I began by reading this book by myself to myself, but decided it would be much more beneficial to have an audience. I followed some of Grandma's advice and borrowed my nieces and nephews for the weekend - they loved it! Their favourite character was Grandma who had them rolling on the floor in stitches. On a more mature note this book contains some vital, common-sense advice that children can take inspiration from in whatever they are trying to achieve. What's next for Gilbert? I'd love to know!
  4. This was a wonderful story about a little boy who just wanted to put a smile back on his mom's face.

    This book is more than just a lovely heart-warming story, it has meaning and guidance too.

    My nine-year-old read this book and loved it. It also helped her a lot; she has recently had a lot of self confidence issues and had been feeling a bit left out. Reading this book made her think about herself and the things she wanted and I saw a new spark in her as she spoke about the things she wanted to do and how she was going to do them. She even made me photocopy the sheets at the back of the book so she could use them for herself.

    I want to read the book myself after seeing such positivity from my eldest.

    Click here to visit the Toppsta website.
  5. Read by my nine (nearly ten) year-old, he asked me a few questions as some bits confused him but overall he said he liked the book a bit. I am thinking that maybe he should have waited a little bit before reading it. It has now been passed on to his 11-year-old cousin who is also an avid reader. I am intrigued to see what she thinks.

    Click here to visit the Toppsta website.
  6. Firstly, Gilbert Filbert and his big MAD box is a delightful story and I thoroughly enjoyed reading the story as it was. I found the text very engaging, I felt for the characters and was reminded of my own grandma by the stories and the way in which they were delivered by Gilbert's grandma in the book - she is my favourite character and I found her so very funny.

    I found the conclusion to the story heart-warming and thought that it was well written-¦ and did I mention funny?! There are really some rib-tickling parts!!

    Secondly, the book has been written specifically to help develop your own thinking processes, I personally felt that this really came through the text and separating the chapters into each process was genius - again this really helped to show how each step can be broken down and fulfilled.

    I worked through Gilbert's big MAD box with my mummy; we methodically went through each step/question and then applied it to a goal of my own. I felt that the process flowed really well and each step made complete sense in relation to what proceeded it and what came after it. I use brainstorms and mind maps in my lessons as they help me to get all my ideas out - sometimes your brain is too full and you need to see it all laid out. I feel that, like in the way I apply these planning tools to my education, I would now refer back to Gilbert Filbert and his big MAD box too.

    Click here to visit the Toppsta website.
  7. This was a rather sweet book. The story of a boy who only wants to make his mother find her smile again. The wacky stories from his Grandma were rather confusing but stories from our elders usually are. I like how the book ended, a happy ending that brought a smile to my face. I feel like this book teaches you a lot about life which I find to be great trait in a book.

    Overall a pleasant read ...

    Click here to visit the Toppsta website.
  8. This book shows us an interesting way to engage in thinking through problem solving. An invaluable way for adults to help children think through different scenarios and come to a solution by themselves. Children will find this book both interesting and informative - helping them work logically through life's problems. Philosophical and entertaining - this book works on many different levels.
  9. At last, a practical solution to help students take responsibility for their own progress and direction. This engaging story could be adapted for any age as it works on many levels, from its laugh-out-loud quips about educational motivation to the genuinely moving story of Gilbert's odyssey. 

    If you work with young people and want to help them gain independent motivation, this is a scheme of work in a book! Gilbert's deceptively simple, entertaining story contains profound insights about how to feel self-belief and get things done. It will provoke rich discussions. Everyone needs a big MAD box.
  10. I have had the pleasure of reading this book with a young man from my school. Danny is a 13-year-old young man who struggles with relationships and communication but is an avid reader. Danny absolutely loved the book and it has allowed us to build up a relationship, something that we had struggled with before.

    By Chapter 2 we entered into the world of Gilbert and his grandma, and we read the book in role. This was a brilliant conversation starter as we got to invent voices and imagine the world as they saw it and lived it. We talk fondly of Gilbert and our new catchphrase is, -˜Now what would grandma say? Is this one of those opportunities in a hat?'

    We loved the book and we hope to have more adventures with Gilbert and his grandma.

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