THE BLOG
02/12/2013 11:01 GMT | Updated 01/02/2014 05:59 GMT

It's Okay to Say I Don't Know'; The Miracle of I Wonder by Annaka Harris

'Do you think Father Christmas will bring me this book?' asks little Shaye Lee. Not surprised by her fascination with I Wonder, I suggest adding the title to her Christmas list.

'Look at the beautiful butterflies..' the six year old cries in amazement as she turns the page, her eyes wide open as she revels in the magnificent ilustratons.

The bright eyed girl first read the book two weeks ago and is still trying to work out how many grains of sand there are in the world, as asked by its leading character, little Eva.

Annaka Harris's I Wonder is a truly inspirational book. It takes children and parents on a joyous journey of discovery, captivating their mind with the miracle of wonder and the enthrawling power of mystery.

Touching on humans' basic sense of exploraation, it pleasantly sparks children's imagination through a charmingly engaging conversation between a little girl and her attentive mother. As they explore the world around them little Eva learns that we do not have the answer to everything; no one knows where Gravity comes from or how many grains of sand there are in the world.

'The book carries a message after my own heart' I tell author Annaka Harris, while encouraging children and adults to ask questions, it tells us that when we do not know the answer, 'it's okay to say I don't know'; this is when we have a mystery on our hands.

Project Reason cofounder Annaka, takes time to tell me about the inspiration for I Wonder, John Rowe's magnificant illustrations and the importance of teaching children to say 'I don't know 'with confidence, rather than embarrassment or fear'.

Q From ancient Greeks to Richard Dawkins's 'appetite for wonder'; man's sense of wonder and the urge to solve mysteries have advanced life on earth, this sense of wonder is at the heart of your book.

A Wonder is often celebrated in childhood, but children are sent mixed messages about it, as our culture generally teaches them that the feeling of not knowing should arouse shame or fear. I believe that one of the most important gifts we can give our children is the confidence to say "I don't know." The goal of I Wonder is to inspire parents and educators to help children make the connection between the feeling of not knowing and the positive experience of wonder. We can encourage children to spend more time wondering when they're willing to feel and express uncertainty.

Q The illustrations are beautiful. Some of the children I shared the book with, actually stopped to revel in them before turning the page. Did you have a vision of what illustrations you wanted or was the task left entirely in the illustrator's capable hands. 

A I knew that it was important to get the illustrations right for I Wonder, so I selected the artist very carefully. I wanted to find the balance between a story that speaks to parents and one that is engaging for children, and I think John Rowe did a spectacular job of helping to accomplish this. I had very clear ideas about what I wanted the illustrations to depict, so I started by giving John specific concepts for each of the pages. John begins his work by creating "sketches" through photography, which I especially enjoyed, as I used to be a photographer myself. We had many conversations about what types of images we wanted to capture in the photo shoot, and it felt like a natural partnership from the beginning. Along the way, John contributed new ideas I hadn't considered, making the story even more powerful. At one point, for example, we were working on bringing more joy and a sense of celebration to the image with the butterflies, and one of John's sketches was based on a photograph of the mother and daughter dancing in circles together. It didn't work for that particular page, but it was so spectacular that I decided to add the image to the book as a spread with no text. The image speaks for itself and adds something very special to the story.

Q You co founded Project Reason, how did your involvement with this monumental force for good come about?

I work as an editor of nonfiction books and a consultant for science writers. My husband, the author Sam Harris, is also one of my clients, and we work very closely together on most of our projects. Project Reason came about because of the response to his first two books and our desire to continue our efforts to spread scientific thinking and secular values, in addition to supporting foundations, research, and projects devoted to the same cause.

With I Wonder Annaka Harris has created a classic. From Antoine De Saint-Exupery, Dickens and Oscar Wilde to Harry Potter, Curious George or Dr Seuss, I Wonder stirrs emotions that are forever relevant, touching on children's and adults' eternal quest for wonder and mystery.

As I thank Annaka's husband, the noted thinker Sam Harris for bringing this book to my attention, I wish for it's message to be heard by humanity at large. Imagine what the world would look like if politicians dared to admit they do not have the answer and turned to people of true knowledge for enlightenment, if religious leaders replaced fantasy with real curiosity and exploration and if mysteries were not an open invitation for wild conspiracy theories but for marvel and exploration.