The Little Book of Thunks®

260 questions to make your brain go ouch!

By: Ian Gilbert


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Products specifications
Attribute name Attribute value
Size: 174mm x 124mm
Pages : 104
ISBN : 9781845900625
Format: Hardback
Published: March 2007

A Thunk is a beguiling question about everyday things that stops you in your tracks and helps you start to look at the world in a whole new light.

The author guides you through the origins and uses of Thunks and demonstrates how this powerful little book can develop philosophical thinking for all ages. Remember there are no right or wrong answers to these questions. How liberating is that?

Ian Gilbert was named the winner of The Author`s Licensing and Collecting Society Award for Educational Writing by the Society of Authors for The Little Book of Thunks. The award is given for an outstanding example of non-fiction that enhances teaching and learning. Gilbert (left) was presented with the award at a ceremony by Labour MP Dr Ian Gibson.

Here are a few Thunks to get you started'

- If I borrow a million pounds am I a millionaire?
- Could a fly cause an aeroplane to crash?
- Are you man-made or natural? Do dogs believe in God?
- When you comb your hair is it art?

Post your Thunks at:

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.


  1. Kids never stop asking questions. Random and sometimes very hard questions. 7.30 am, weekday mornings, when my face is still scrunched up from sleep and my brain is not yet open for business, is my daughter's favourite time to ping them at me ... 

    Why do flamingoes stand on one leg? 
    How did the second world war start? 
    Why do men have nipples?

    ... are just some of the beauties I've had recently. It's like her subconscious thinks them up overnight to test me at my mentally weakest point of the day. 

    “I just need to concentrate on making the packed lunches right now, sweetheart,” I too often hear myself replying. But my fully-awake self fully appreciates her child's curiosity and inquisitiveness. And the last thing I want to do is kill it off.

    This dinky little book keeps it very much alive - and takes it even further. It encourages children to look at the world and question everything. 
    Inside its deliciously old-fashioned, hard-backed cover there are only questions. And not a single answer.
    Very tricky questions ...
    Questions which encourage children to think sideways, upside down, in circles ...
    Questions which push them think to hard, think deeply ... 
    Questions which have no right answer ...
    Questions which trigger discussion and invite them to argue their case ...
    Questions which delve into all the fuzzy areas ...
    It's like beginner philosophy for kids.

    I first used our well-thumbed and sticky-fingered copy with my son, when he was eight or nine. I remember taking it on a long -˜walk and talk' session with him the weekend we got it. “Give me another one,” he'd say and we'd go off into another round of debate - or “verbal fisticuffs” as the author calls it - until we were all thunked out.
    Now my daughter, just turned nine, also likes to get stuck into a good thunk. “I like the way your brain has to zig-zag its way through things you've never thought about before," she said. We sometimes do thunks to break up a long car journey or just pluck one to ponder together at a random moment of the day. Though recently she's been asking if we can do a thunk at bedtime. ("Er ... wouldn't you prefer a Peter Rabbit story?" I say. I'm rubbish at that end of the day too!)
    She's even started making up her own thunks now. She says she likes trying them out on her friends at school. The secret of making a really good thunk, she told me, is to get it “exactly in the middle” so the other person really can't decide which way to answer. Here are some of hers:

    Do you own your shadow?
    If you have a tattoo, is it part of your body?
    If you listen to an audio book, does that count as reading the book?

    Maybe it will even boost her confidence in class discussions at school. She told me a while ago that sometimes she wants to put her hand up but doesn't in case her answer sounds silly and isn't the answer the teacher wanted. Thunks teach kids that opinion and fact are not the same thing. That sometimes there is no wrong answer. 

    Of course, the downside is it isn't make my mornings any easier.

    “Is zero an odd or an even number?” I got this morning as I was scraping burnt toast and hollering at the Teenager to get out of bed.


    See the full review here.
  2. On the front cover is the statement, -˜260 questions to make your brain go ouch!' and it does exactly that. Simple little questions about everyday things that make you look again at the world and keep everything in perspective, e.g,, If 1 borrow a million pounds, am 1 a millionaire? Is there more future than post?,, If you say sorry but don't mean it, but the person you are apologising to thinks you do, does it still count?,, If you could take a pill that meant you would never fail, would you?,. If you read a magazine in a shop and then put it back, is that stealing?,. Is it the some rood in both directions? Wake up and shake up your thinking with this great small format book.
  3. 260 questions to make your brain go ouch! And I can honestly say it worked!! Ian Gilbert describes a -˜thunk' as “a beguilingly simple looking questions about everyday things that stops you in your tracks and helps you start looking at the world in a N%-hole new light”. He used them in his work with primary and secondary school children and describes the interesting debates that arise from them, ie “one group memorably identified that if zebras ruled the world there would be no racism” Ian Gilbert also explains that there are no right or wrong answers to these questions and it helps the quieter members of the class have an opinion without feeling they could be wrong. It certainly stirred debate in my household, my husband and older son were not impressed but my 12 year old son loved thinking of how many different answers to the questions he could come up with, and then exploring how he arrived at his answers was fascinating. I found it a thoroughly absorbing and fascinating little book.
  4. Debate, thought and laughter

    My favourite has to be The Little Book of Thunks by Ian Gilbert. It has generated so much debate, thought and laughter in class that it has repaid its cost over and again.

    I have used the questions straight from the book and then had the pupils take the subject wherever they wanted. I thought I would die when Year 8 was discussing “Are you man-made or natural?” and seeing them desperately trying not to say the word “sex”.

    The decision hinged in the end on whether the question referred to the constituents or the process. The answer to both was “Yes”.

    One question; two answers; 20 minutes and 30 brains working.
  5. Debate, thought and laughter

    My favourite has to be The Little Book of Thunks by Ian Gilbert. It has generated so much debate, thought and laughter in class that it has repaid its cost over and again.

    I have used the questions straight from the book and then had the pupils take the subject wherever they wanted. I thought I would die when Year 8 was discussing “Are you man-made or natural?” and seeing them desperately trying not to say the word “sex”.

    The decision hinged in the end on whether the question referred to the constituents or the process. The answer to both was “Yes”.

    One question; two answers; 20 minutes and 30 brains working.
  6. Two weeks in the Ardeche Mountains and gorges in France. Hot weather, excellent food, beautiful scenery and The Little Book of Thunks to review and what a pleasure it was too. What is a Thunk? The author, Ian Gilbert explains that a thunk is a beguiling question about everyday things that stops you in your tracks and helps you to start looking at the world in a whole new light?

    And what a fun read it was too! No boring evenings back at the tent swatting mosquitoes for me! Oh no! A game of thunks was in order. Firstly, a game of thunks is played with at least two people, (better with a group), secondly read out a thunk from the book, for example, Can you dream of a taste? Thirdly sit back, listen and learn on how people view their world. Best of all there are no right or wrong answers however, be prepared for some good debates and reasoning along the way.

    The Little Book of Thunks is an ideal book for the family to enjoy and originally aimed at the education sector for teaching staff to have a number of questions for encouraging pupil's thinking skills makes it an ideal mealtime conversation piece for the whole family.

    Questions such as, does a goldfish know it is your pet? And another two hundred and fifty eight questions as the author puts it to make your brain go ouch! This book is definitely worth a read, especially at those times when the old grey matter needs a bit of stimulating. Don't just leave it for family mealtimes, put it on the menu for the after dinner party games. Lets face it, makes a change from a game of charades.

    Ian Gilbert, definitely knows his stuff with this little gem of a book and I look forward to playing thunks more often.

    Hope you all get as much enjoyment from it as much as I did and I am sure it will be one of those that grace the bookshelf for a long time and makes a valued appearance from time to time.
  7. This little book brings to life higher order thinking skills in the classroom with 260 gems for lessons and excellent ideas on how to deliver them ” truly irresistible for staff and pupils alike!
  8. A truly fascinating book that really generates deep thinking. This book could be used in a variety of settings and for a variety of purposes but in particular to develop a range of generic skills with students of all ages.
  9. A THUNK, says the author, is a beguillingly simple-looking question about everyday that stops you in your tracks helps you start looking at the world in a whole. new light. When we do this, we start to realise that. what we thought were facts are actually opinions. Thunks - are a form of Socratic dialogue using questions to generate new thinking. They can be used anywhere and everywhere but have especial value in ,schools, as a way to stimulate students' interest in -a variety of subjects and to encourage debate - as there are no wrong answers, and many creative ways through which to encourage everyone to take, pat-t. A 20 page introductory essay is followed by 260 thunks, of which these are but six. Is there more future or past” Can you have Li friend you don't like? Does a sound exist? Is taking pity on something? a good thing? Is a broken-down car parked? Is it ever possible to learn nothing?
  10. Thunk it over

    If you really want to get children's brains humming then try a few Thunks. These are beguillingly simple looking questions that stop you in your tracks and help you to start looking at the world in a new Iight.

    For a good Thunk session, you should gather pupils in a circle and explain that there are no right or wrong answers to the following questions. A few warm up teasers like “what colour is Tuesday?” or “which is heavier, rich or poor?” should get them in the mood. Try not to be too teacher-like, you don't want to squash philosophical thought, and if someone does come up with a -˜silly' answerjust ask them to explain and justify it. Here's a Thunk for you to try:

    “If I swap your pen for one exactly the same without telling you, is that stealing?”
  11. Another gem from Ian Gilbert .Stimulating and enthralling. Without realising it I have been doing Thunks for years, as a parent, rugby coach and Open University tutor, helping my children and students to develop their own thinking. These statements will form the basis of my brain gyms, to stimulate mental skills and personal confidence. This is not a book to be left on the shelf, these THUNKS can be great for “thought for the Day”, in schools, colleges, the office, factory and .. the kitchen at home. Enjoy the discussion
  12. I shall recommend this book to all those working with children and students in school and especially all Gifted and Talented Coordinators
  13. Which comes first 'thinking' or 'thunking?' - you may have to think about that. The Little Book of Thunks is a delightful book written by an inspired thinker. Don't think twice about adding it to your collection.
  14. This is a welcome new book of beguiling quotes that will encourage children to think and is not yet another puzzle book but an exercise book in which you can give your brain a range of activities to develop your ability to think. These activities will tap into children's intellectual curiosity. “Judicious questioning is nearly the half of knowledge”, and is the skill of a good teacher. This book is timely and should be welcomed by both teachers and parents as thinking should be taught in schools but should permeate everything we do.. As in physical fitness the message to staying in good mental shape is” use it or lose it ” There is an excellent philosophical statement at the beginning of this book followed by 259 thought provoking questions or “thunks” , many of them based on a values education. There are no right or wrong answers which makes the “thunks” even more enjoyable. Many of the “thunks' could be used as posters to be placed in strategic places around the school where children pass daily on the kitchen notice board at home.
  15. I have stolen more ideas from Ian Gilbert than from the rest of the education community put together. You learn more in half an hour with one of his books, than you would in a whole century of INSETs. Thunks caused my lower jaw to drop. They are an instantaneous passport to the very best of children's thinking.
  16. When I first received the book and looked at the title, I hadn't a clue what it referred to and I have to admit if I saw it in a shop I would not pick it up because the title doesn't do anything for me. Also if it was standing on a shelf the colour is very neutral and wouldn't be 'seen' readily in amongst others.

    In terms of the content ..

    I was surprised at the concept and delighted that there was a word to describe what I do naturally in certain subjects. I hadn't thought of applying it to many subjects because I just assumed that the only reason my thinking processes around the subjects I do this with naturally was because I had a high interest in the subject.

    However, this book has shown me the power of what can happen if one is prepared to question one's thoughts and beliefs regarding any subject and the importance of this skill would mean people would be able to think without becoming emotionally attached to a particular outcome which means that tolerance of other people's view points would become more practiced.

    Clever little book and if practiced by educators will definitely transform the face of education and the way future generations tackle life's challenges.
  17. Having opened a dialogue on introducing thinking in schools with Little Owl Ian Gilbert has now moved the process on with a gem of a book.

    The concept of a “Thunk” is excellent ” combining the idea of a thought and the “thud” in the individual's consciousness as the idea lands and generates purposeful mental activity ” better known as creative thought ” a commodity that is currently sadly lacking in our target obsessed school system.

    Gilbert gives us the complete package an introduction to the process of stimulating creative thought in the class room and an appropriately mind bending collection of over 250 “thunks” to sample and work with. The delight in this presentation is that the book is not definitive but generative ” once you engage with the process outlined using Ian's examples you will quickly start generating your own examples and building the capacity of your students to think creatively for themselves ” a gift they will be blessed with for the rest of their lives.

    So much excellent material in such a small book, demonstrates beautifully the simplicity of a truly creative idea.
  18. As a teacher I've liberally applied the contents of this book in a range of contexts - with a rowdy class of 30+, a bespoke vertical tutor group and a grubby but perfectly formed revision clinic. Each time the most flabby brain muscles in the room (including mine) have been encouraged to flex and tone confidently without fear of revealing the 'wrong' mental lycra. Perhaps Deep Thought in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe needs to rethunk his ultimate answer.

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