More about the project


Real questions from children

This project started with a Facebook query to friends and family to send their children’s funniest or toughest questions.

Questions came back like, How does water get into the clouds so it can rain?, Can a bee sting a bee?, Can you feel something in a dream that you haven’t felt before?, Do any people eat lions or polar bears? and even Did Alexander the Great like frogs? (you wouldn’t be surprised if you’d met the child). Most were questions that had left parents grasping at straws.

I wanted to know what world experts would say when faced with these children’s questions. How would a brilliant particle physicist, famous historian or philosopher explain their subject to a child? This was the starting point for Big Questions.

My husband Nick and I decided the book should benefit a children’s charity and I approached the NSPCC because I was familiar with their fantastic Childline helpline. The charity and I then worked with Faber & Faber to gather a much bigger sample of questions from thousands of children, involving ten primary schools across the UK. The handwritten questions that came back were a fascinating insight into how children think, from the mindbogglingly difficult to those that were funny or cute.

Expert answers

When I sent the children’s questions to my wish-list of experts, the response was heartwarming. More than a hundred extremely busy scientists, historians, philosophers, psychologists, naturalists, explorers, artists, musicians, authors, archaeologists and paleontologists, sportsmen and women have taken time to answer a child’s question, to support the NSPCC. You can read a longer list of our contributors here.

Big Questions is an anthology of many voices and ideas, a personal response from each expert to a child’s idiosyncratic question. I hope you enjoy reading them.

Supporting the NSPCC and Save The Children

Half the author’s advance and at least two-thirds of the royalty (67%) earned by every copy will go to the NSPCC (National Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children). The NSPCC is the only charity focused on ending child cruelty across the UK. You can read all about NSPCC’s vital work here. In the US and Canada sales of Big Questions also support Save The Children.