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Philosophy for Middle Graders

Ping Poo, the Astronomer: A strange discovery

Written by Pierre Moessinger

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Interesting essay of nine pages which presents a discussion of discoveries by Ping Poo, an ancient Chinese astronomer who lived during the Zhou Dynasty in China around 550 A.D. Ping Poo believed that stars held on to the sky like flies on a ceiling. His colleague Li Fu argued that they hung from the sky with strings. One day Ping Poo sees a red glow in his white jade ball. Following a dream, Ping is determined to journey to Mount Yugo to investigate. His friend Li decides to accompany him, When Ping disappears, some peers believe he was pursued by a dragon and drowned in the Yellow River; others theorized that he stole the elixir of immortality and fled to the moon in an effort to escape the anger of the gods. As time passed the two scholars were forgotten. Years later in 1830, two children Lou and Wang discover a linen bundle of paper inscribed with calligraphy. They turn it over to their father, a professor of ancient Chinese. Turns out to be the journals of Ping Poo in which he set forth the hypothesis that the earth is a sphere turning around on its own axis, the first astronomer to do so. At the end of the essay, Moessinger offers some questions for his readers to ponder and answer. As a footnote, the author briefly explains Piaget’s ideas and suggests this book as an introduction to philosophy for children.

Recommended for readers in the eight to thirteen age range, this book is an interesting way to introduce philosophical thought to middle grade children. While the historical backstory is certainly worthwhile, the audience for this book is geared toward the child who likes to apply critical thinking skills to her reading. Youngsters who are looking for a quick read will probably not find this book appealing. Best suited for readers in the ten and up age range.

Barbara Ann Mojica

LittleMissHistory.com

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