Big Questions from Little People

BIG QUESTIONS from little people … answered by some very big people

Compiled by Gemma Elwin Harris

4 October 2012, £12.99 hardback and ebook

Children have a knack of asking great questions… Why is the sea salty? How far away is space? Why did dinosaurs go extinct and not other animals? What makes me me?

But how are we supposed to answer their questions when most of us have only a sketchy grasp of the detail? Imagine if we could turn to a leading expert and ask them to answer in simple terms.

The book was conceived to raise money for the NSPCC, over half of the advance and royalties from sales of BIG QUESTIONS will go to the charity. The NSPCC is the UK’s leading children’s charity specialising in child protection. The money raised by sales of BIG QUESTIONS will help fund the NSPCC’s projects and services across the United Kingdom and Channel Islands, including ChildLine, the UK’s free, confidential 24-hour helpline and online service for children and young people and a helpline for adults concerned about the safety of a child.

The publishers, Faber and Faber, have kindly sent me a copy to review and on first sight it looks like a fantastic book for all the family. It features over 100 questions asked by children from schools all over the country.  The questions have in turn been answered by experts in their field.

The book opens with an Editors note from Gemma Elwin Harris explaining that her two-year-old is starting to ask questions and for now he is satisfied with her short answers.  I am not so lucky these days with a 5-year-old on hand to pull me up on trying to fob her off! She wants to know why, when, how and where.  So I started to read this new book to her after tea this evening, carrying on at bathtime and then onto the bedtime story.

We have got through the first quarter of the book together, and I intend to continue with it myself tonight whilst she is in bed. You see, I find it as much a book for an adult as it is for a child. A certain family pleaser. I am going to read the rest of the book to Grace too so I can share what I either knew already using a better explanation, or by sharing with her things that I have only just found out. Yes, its true, I have learnt lots from this book this evening already.  The explanation of an atom by Marcus Chown is wonderful and put everything into perspective.  The description by Jarvis Cocker of why we have music is so very lovely, its exactly how I would want to explain it. I have found that the majority of the experts I have read so far have contributed with their explanations in a fascinating and unpatronising manner.

As well as the serious explanations, there is an out-takes chapter that offers alternative answers by comedians. I have started to look at this and the first page is very funny. Sarah Millican answers the question ‘Are we all related?’ with another question ‘Is this you angling for a Christmas present?’ And the response to ‘Why do we sleep at night’ with ‘Wait til you go to University, you’ll be able to do it through the day too!’ The jokes are all family-friendly as well!

The final section is dedicated to the contributors of the book. Each person has a paragraph of biography about them.

This is the sort of book that you can pick up and put down at any time. A reference book without a story that you have to follow. I would find it handy to have out and about for those times when you are waiting at the doctors, or for your car’s MOT, and you want something to do with your kids other than offer them your phone to play games on!

This is the perfect birthday or Christmas book for a family with children of around five-years-old and up. Something you can pick up off your shelf and read to yourself or your children.

You need to be aware of one problem though. I discovered that when reading the explanation of whether Aliens exist to Grace earlier, it included details about satellites. Cue another question. The perfect recipe for a sequel methinks!

I happily intend to come back and complete this review when we have got through the whole book.

Find more details here: and here:

Follow on Twitter: @BigQuestionsBk

With thanks to Faber and Faber and also to Louise Harris at Rock and Roll Babyworld.

BIG QUESTIONS has been compiled by Gemma Elwin Harris, a freelance editor and features writer, who has worked for Time Out, Glamour and The Sunday Times. She has one son and two very curious nieces, the inspiration for this book

About the NSPCC

The NSPCC is the UK’s leading children’s charity specialising in child protection. Our vision is to end cruelty to children in the UK and we make a difference for all children by standing up for their rights, listening to them, helping them when they need us and by making them safe. The NSPCC runs projects and services across the United Kingdom and Channel Islands to help vulnerable children. We also provide ChildLine, the UK’s free, confidential 24-hour helpline and online service for children and young people and a helpline for adults who are worried about a child or want advice.


If you have concerns about a child or young person, you can call the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000, text 88858 or visit


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  1. October 11, 2012 / 4:27 pm

    Loving the idea of this book, Beth is 11 and we do get some quite random questions wish we had this when she was smaller! although with Joshua still being so little maybe all is not lost!

    • Victoria
      October 11, 2012 / 10:06 pm

      Thanks for reading the review Jaime.Actually, I think Beth would love it :). It is aimed toward the whole family. I think Grace may be a little young for it, particularly as this afternoon in the car she was in tears and said that she wished I hadn’t told her what stars really are as now she doesn’t know where her Nana is. Guilty Mum syndrome!!

  2. October 6, 2012 / 5:56 am

    Sounds like a fab book, I’ve answered my fair amount of questions in my house with four inquisitive cheeky boys round my ankles , with many more to come I’m sure. Xxx

    • Victoria
      October 6, 2012 / 9:05 am

      Thanks for your comment Shelley :). Sounds like you are going to need the book! X

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