“Nico, the Little Detective” is a book about a child who becomes a detective to help others and looking for cases to solve he embarks on all kinds of adventures. Aside from the enjoyment of reading, this book can be used as a source of resources for cultivating reflective and critical thinking in children as advocated by «Philosophy for Children» (P4C) movement.
In fact, we can say that Nico, who is a child who becomes a detective to help others, could be a stoic philosopher because he uses reason to improve society and himself. If you want to read some stoic philosophy I recommend one of my favorite books: Meditations by Marcus Aurelius.
An important trait of Nico is that he is a child who has empowered himself by becoming a detective to solve the problems he encounters around him, often with the help of his friends, without asking the adults for permission. This is expressed by Nico in the book’s prologue:
I am going to tell you a secret, older people have been telling children for many years that we are the future, that one day we will be bigger, and we will make the world a better place. But what I have learnt is that «we are not the future; we are the present.»
I have found that if you want to do something you have to do it now and not leave it for later, because if you leave it for when you are older, you may never do it.
Nico’s behavior has been influenced by the «Design for Change» organization whose main mission is to empower every child with the ‘I CAN mindset’. This goal is accomplished by introducing into kid’s education the realization of projects to improve the world with the help of its own FIDS methodology; this methodology is based on «Design Thinking» and takes 4 steps (feel, imagine, do and share). During this process, all the children who participate develop their abilities (empathy, creativity, teamwork, critical thinking and shared leadership) by making a real change in their world, starting from their own concerns and putting their own ideas into practice, coming to say: I CAN!
The topics covered in the different chapters of the book on which the children can reflect and give their opinions together with their family or friends are:
- Chapter 1: The treasure of the pirate Malsobaco. In this chapter Nico tells a lie to keep his friend Andrea from being punished. This story can be used to reflect on whether there are cases in which it would be permissible to tell a lie, and what those cases would be, or whether a lie should never be told.
- Chapter 2: On the hunt for the pooping tiger. In this chapter Nico gets a cat to stop pooping in his garden and completes his good deed by letting his family believe that the credit goes to his dog Rufus. This story can be used to reflect on whether it is right for someone to take credit for an action they have not done, and what those cases would be.
- Chapter 3: The case of the missing astronaut. In this chapter Raúl and Sergio endanger their friendship by fighting over who is the owner of an astronaut toy. This story can be used to reflect on the value of friendship over other minor things such as the possession of things.
- Chapter 4: Treak or trit. In this chapter Nico wants his mother to buy him a vampire disguise to wear on Halloween, but she makes a zombie costume for him and Nico gets angry about it. This story can be used to reflect on whether it is good for people to have fixed opinions or is better for them to be more flexible and adapt to the circumstances.
- Chapter 5: Fix-it Nico. In this chapter Jaime does a bad deed by making fun of Guile’s science project. This story can be used to reflect on the damage you can cause to others if you laugh at them and also to reflect on how you would act if you saw such an injustice being done to another person. Would you act or look away?
- Chapter 6: Catch a thief while you are eating a pizza. In this chapter Martina asks a councilwoman when the new institute in Paracuellos will be functioning. This story can be used to reflect on whether we citizens should work to improve the things around us (education, health, environmental care, etc.) instead of leaving only the politicians to fix them. Of all citizens, children in particular can also participate in improving society as does Nico the protagonist of this book, or his friend Martina.
- Chapter 7: Ninjas always have good luck. In this chapter Nico helps his cousin to get rid of his bad luck. This story can be used so that the children, when reading it, discover that with their attitudes and actions they can improve their luck. This story is available for free download a the following link: https://bit.ly/3hONNu3
- Chapter 8: This is not my mother, someone has changed her. In this chapter Nico’s mother behaves strangely because she is stressed by her job, but her family does not know what is wrong with her because she has not told them about her problem. This story can be used to reflect on how good it is to share our problems with our family and friends to support and help each other.
- Chapter 9: The dragon that could not fly. In this chapter, Nico promises to find the person responsible for a mischief, knowing that all the suspects are his friends and that if he discovers the guilty one, he will surely be punished. This story can be used to reflect on whether the promises should always be kept or in some cases not.
- Chapter 10: The mystery of the camp monster. In this chapter Nico discovers that it was Jaime who played a monster joke on them and he gets truly angry with him. Sofia says that children do bad things when they feel lonely, and that by supporting them and making them our friends they will become good again. After hearing these words, Nico forgives Jaime and even lets him be part of his group of friends. Do you think that if you forgive someone who has done something wrong and you give them a second chance, they will improve their behavior? This story can be used to reflect on whether people can change (or not) their ideas and behaviors. I think so, don’t you agree?
You have at your disposal free activities sheets for children where the topics mentioned above are proposed for discussion.