The Very Hard Book

The Very Hard Book
Ian Ben-Barak and Philip Bunting
Allen & Unwin

In this zany book readers are asked to try some very challenging things and it’s all in the name of helping us to become aware of our thought processes (metacognition). Are you up for the challenge of some open-ended thinking? Right … ‘Sit in an empty room.’ ‘Drop something by accident.’ ‘Dig half a hole.’

Each page (almost) gives a different instruction or asks a different question and by the time you’re half way through you’ll be giggling (partly thanks to Philip Bunting’s quirky creatures) and your brain will be going into overdrive with the creators’ comical ideas. Certainly however you will be more conscious of the limitations of your own mind.

You might even be prepared to have a look at The Very Hard Gallery at the back of the book. Here you will find a more detailed exploration of the paradoxes presented: you’ll see some interesting sounding names such as the Stroop Effect (your mind having to process two conflicting messages; in the example given, they are meaning and colour); then there’s Panta rhei. You will need to find out what this means for yourself, which means getting hold of a copy of the book (no cheating by using google).

Try putting this in a KS1 classroom; as well as introducing them to some surrealism, it will surely get everyone’s little grey cells working hard as they embark on a fun-filled thinking journey.

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