R
eady to try your hand at having a philosophical discussion with children?  To help you out, we’ve assembled all the materials you’ll need to do so, except the books. 

Most of the work was done by students in Tom Wartenberg’s Philosophy for Children class at Mount Holyoke College.  They’ve made two types of pages.  For each story, there is a page that briefly introduces the philosophical issues raised by the story and another page that has the questions that you might want to ask the children. 

These are just suggestions for you, so don’t feel bound by them.  But they’ll help you get an idea of how to approach the discussion of the story that you choose.  The books are listed in alphabetical order below.  ENJOY!!


Books Listed in Alphabetical Order by Title

 

Albert's Impossible Toothache
Author:Barbara Williams
Publisher: Candlewick Press

When little Albert Turtle complains that he has a toothache, his father assures him that that’s impossible and points to his own toothless mouth. But Albert won’t get out of bed, and Mother Turtle begins to worry. Will Albert’s toothache ever go away? Even more important, will anyone ever believe him?

A Review of the Philosophical Issues in Albert’s Impossible Toothache

Question Sets for Use After Reading the Story

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Author:Judith Viorst
Publisher: Aladdin Paperbacks

From the moment Alexander wakes up, everything goes wrong! He wakes up with gum in his hair, fights with his friends, and has to eat lima beans for dinner. At the end of his rough day, Alexander learns some days are just like that. All kids experience this type of day, and will be glad to find they are not alone!

A Review of the Philosophical Issues in
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Question Sets for Use After Reading the Story

The Bee-Man of Orn
Author: Frank Richard Stockton
Publisher: Candlewick Press

In the ancient country of Orn there lived an old man who was called the Bee-man, because his whole time was spent in the company of bees. One day a Junior Sorcerer stopped at the hut of the Bee-man. The Junior Sorcerer told the Bee-man that he has been transformed. "If you will find out what you have been transformed from, I will see that you are made all right again," said the Sorcerer. Could it have been a giant, or a powerful prince, or some gorgeous being whom the magicians or the fairies wish to punish? The Bee-man sets out to discover his original form.

A Review of the Philosophical Issues in The Bee-Man of Orn

Question Sets for Use After Reading the Story

Benjamin's Dreadful Dream
Author: Alan Baker
Publisher: J.B. Lippincott Company

When he can't sleep one night, Benjamin decides to have a snack, but instead he finds himself in the midst of surprising adventures with piles of food, firecrackers, water, and bubbles before finding himself back in bed again. Was it all just a dream?!

A Review of the Philosophical Issues in Benjamin's Dreadful Dream

Question Sets for Use After Reading the Story

The Big Box
Author: Toni Morrison
Publisher: Hyperion Books

Because they do not abide by the rules written by the adults around them, three children are judged unable to handle their freedom and forced to live in a box with three locks on the door.

A Review of the Philosophical Issues in The Big Box

Question Sets for Use After Reading the Story

Days with Frog and Toad
Author: Arnold Lobel
Publisher: Harper Collins Publishers

Good friends like Frog and Toad enjoy spending their days together. They fly kites, celebrate Toad's birthday, and share the shivers when one of them tells a scary story. But they come to discover that it is also important to sometimes be alone.

A Review of the Philosophical Issues in Alone

Question Sets for Use After Reading Alone

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Elvira
Author: Margaret Shannon
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company

When Elvira is born she seems just like any other baby dragon, but her parents soon realize she doesn't like fighting and she hates eating princesses. The other little dragons tease her, but they soon discover Elvira has a mind of her own.

A Review of the Philosophical Issues in Elvira

Question Sets for Use After Reading the Story

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Emily's Art
Author: Peter Catalanotto
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

When her teacher announces an art contest, Emily uncertainly wonders, "Does the judge know which is better?" When the judge rejects Emily's picture of a dog beause she hates dogs, Emily stops painting. Before long, though, Emily's classmates, teacher, and Emily herself realize that "best" can rarely be measured or judged.

A Review of the Philosophical Issues in Emily's Art

Question Sets for Use After Reading the Story

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Frederick
Author: Leo Lionni
Publisher: Random House Children's Books

Winter is near and all the field mice are busy preparing and gathering food for the cold months ahead - all except for Frederick. Always the daydreamer, Frederick is preparing a small surprise that will warm the hearts and feed the spirits of his fellow mice when they need it most.

A Review of the Philosophical Issues in Frederick

Question Sets for Use After Reading the Story

Frog and Toad Together
Author: Arnold Lobel
Publisher: Harper Collins

Frog and Toad are best friends. They do everything together. When Toad admires the flowers in Frog's garden, Frog gives him seeds to grow a garden of his own. When Toad bakes cookies, Frog helps him eat them. And when both Frog and Toad are scared, they are brave together. There are five stories which recount their adventures together.

A Review of the Philosophical Issues in Dragons and Giants

Question Sets for Use After Reading Dragons and Giants

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A Review of the Philosophical Issues in The Garden

Question Sets for Use After Reading The Garden


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The Gift of Nothing
Author: Patrick McDonnell
Publisher:
Little, Brown Young Readers

Mooch the cat desperately wants to find a gift for his friend Earl the dog, but Earl already has everything. "What do you give a guy who has everything?" Mooch wonders. The answer, of course, is nothing!

This simple story features characters from Patrick McDonnell's popular comic strip, Mutts, and has the same depth, charm, and heart that he gives to his daily readers.

A Review of the Philosophical Issues in The Gift of Nothing

Question Sets for Use After Reading the Story

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A Gift from Papa Diego
Author: Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Publisher: Cinco Puntos Press

A Gift from Papá Diego is about a 6-year old boy named Diego. Diego lives in Texas and wishes desperately to be reunited with his grandfather who lives in Mexico. Diego asks for a Superman costume for his birthday in hopes of being able to fly to Mexico to visit his grandfather. He is disappointed when he realizes the costume does not give him the ability to do this. The story ends with a surprise visit from Diego’s grandfather, and the whole family has a wonderful birthday celebration.

A Review of the Philosophical Issues in A Gift from Papa Diego

Question Sets for Use After Reading the Story

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The Giving Tree
Author: Shel Silverstein
Publisher: Harper Collins

Once there was a tree . . . and she loved a little boy. Every day the boy would come to the tree to eat her apples, swing from her branches, or slide down her trunk . . . and the tree was happy. But as the boy grew older he began to want more from the tree, and the tree gave and gave.

A Review of the Philosophical Issues in The Giving Tree

Question Sets for Use After Reading the Story

The Gold Coin
Author: Alma Flor Ada
Publisher: Atheneum

Juan makes his living as a thief. He hears Dona Josefa, an old woman and healer in her town, declare that she is the “richest woman in the world.” Juan follows her, determined to take her money, for he believes that the money will make him happy.

A Review of the Philosophical Issues in The Gold Coin

Question Sets for Use After Reading the Story

Here Comes the Cat!
Author: Vladimir Vagin
Publisher: Scholastic Books

In a peaceful mouse village, the lookout mouse is alarmed to see the approaching shadow of a large cat. He races through the town, alerting every resident. The cat, however, has harmless intentions. A gift of cheese to the mice helps a friendship develop between two very different kinds of creatures.

A Review of the Philosophical Issues in Here Comes the Cat!

Question Sets for Use After Reading the Story

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The Important Book
Author: Margaret Wise Brown
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

The important thing about The Important Book -- is that you think about for yourself what is important about the sun and the moon and the wind and the rain and a bug and a bee and a chair and a table and a pencil and a bear and a rainbow and a cat. What is most important about many familiar things -- like rain and wind, apples and daisies -- is suggested in rhythmic words and vivid pictures.

A Review of the Philosophical Issues in The Important Book

Question Sets for Use After Reading the Story

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I Know a Lady
Author: Charlotte Zolotow
Publisher: Harper Trophy

There's a lady who lives alone and works on her garden regularly. She gives her neighbors assortments of flowers and is friendly to the neighborhood children when they walk by her before and after school. A little girl named Sally wonders what the old lady was like as a little girl and imagines herself in the old lady's place.

A Review of the Philosophical Issues in I Know a Lady

Question Sets for Use After Reading the Story

I Know the Moon
Author: Stephen Axel Anderson
Publisher: Philomon Books

All of the animals have their own concept of the moon. They have an argument as to whose concept is the correct one. The owl interrupts them and says, "There is but one moon, we shall have but one answer." They go to a man of science to find out the truth about the moon. When he tells them it can be only known through words, the animals are dissatisfied with his answer.

A Review of the Philosophical Issues in I Know the Moon

Question Sets for Use After Reading the Story

Let's Make Rabbits
Author: Leo Lionni
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers

The scissors says, "Let's make rabbits" to the pencil. Suddenly, two rabbits appear, one cut out from paper and the other one drawn with pencil. When the rabbits get hungry, the scissors cuts out a picture of a carrot and the pencil draws a carrot so they can eat. Then, one day the rabbits find a real carrot, eat it, and become real.

A Review of the Philosophical Issues in Let's Make Rabbits

Question Sets for Use After Reading the Story

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Lily Brown's Paintings
Author: Angela Johnson
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.

When Lily Brown paints, her world starts to change . . . trees wear hats and drink tea, people walk upside down, and apples sing all the way home from the store. It's Lily Brown's world, and it's wondrous. A little paint and a lot of love bring imagination to life in this captivating picture book.

A Review of the Philosophical Issues in Lily Brown's Paintings

Question Sets for Use After Reading the Story

The Little Prince
Author: Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Publisher: Harcourt, Inc.

An aviator whose plane is forced down in the Sahara Desert encounters a little boy, a prince, from a small planet. The boy recounts his space-travelling adventures and search for the secret of what is important in life.

A Review of the Philosophical Issues in The Little Prince

Question Sets for Use After Reading the Story

Matthew's Dream
Author: Leo Lionni
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf

A poor mouse couple lives in a dusty attic where they have great hopes for their only child. When they ask Matthew what he wants to be, however, he is uncertain--until the day his class goes on a field trip to the art museum.

A Review of the Philosophical Issues in Matthew's Dream

Question Sets for Use After Reading the Story

Minty
A Story of Young Harriet Tubman

Author: Alan Steptoe
Publisher: Penguin Putnam

Young Harriet Tubman was a slave in the 1820’s on a plantation along Maryland’s Eastern Shore. In this story, Harriet - known as Minty as a child - is independent, feisty, and incapable of being a docile slave. Her father recognizes her spirited desire for freedom and teaches her survival skills that will be useful when she grows up to become the most famous conductor of the Underground Railroad.

A Review of the Philosophical Issues in Minty

Question Sets for Use After Reading the Story

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Miss Nelson is Missing!
Author: Harry Allard and James Marshall
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Publishing

A classroom of unruly students treat their caring and lovely teacher with complete disrespect. They throw spitballs during story-time and refuse to sit in their seats during math. They take advantage of their teacher's good nature until she disappears and they are faced with a vile substitute. Near her wits' end, Miss Nelson doesn't come to school one day. Instead, the kids have a vile substitute--the nasty Viola Swamp--who loads the boys and girls with homework and never gives them a story hour. By the time Miss Nelson finally returns, the children are so grateful they behave well. But now Viola Swamp is missing.....

A Review of the Philosophical Issues in Miss Nelson is Missing

Question Sets for Use After Reading the Story

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Monster Stew - "Beans"
Author: Mitra Modarressi
Publisher: Dorling Kindersley Publishing

"Beans" takes the side of a hairy blue giant who falls from a beanstalk but later befriends a thief named Jack, while the title story up-ends the tale of Hansel and Gretel. Modarressi's soft, padded-looking monsters have beady eyes and spiky fur, but their facial expressions show them to be good-natured and kind. The sepia-tinged palette of terra-cotta orange, claylike brown and ash green likewise communicates warmth rather than inspiring terror. Modarressi wittily champions monsters and wryly implies that it's people who need to learn some manners.

A Review of the Philosophical Issues in Beans

Question Sets for Use After Reading the Story

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Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters
An African Tale

Author: John Steptoe
Publisher: William Morrow

Both of Mufaro's daughters are beautiful but one is bad tempered and one is kind. When the king of the land asks the daughters to appear before him so he can choose a queen, the prideful, bad tempered daughter decides to set out in the night so she can get there first. Along the path are many opportunities to show one's true character. The kind daughter who follows the same path the next day makes different decisions - with different results and a surprising ending!

A Review of the Philosophical Issues in Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters

Question Sets for Use After Reading the Story

My Dream of Martin Luther King
Author: Faith Ringgold
Publisher: Dragonfly Books

The author recounts her unique vision of Martin Luther King, Jr. by describing a dream she had about the great civil rights leader. The dream includes scenes of King's childhood and the major events of his life, from the boycott of the segregated buses to his "I Have a Dream" speech to his assassination.

A Review of the Philosophical Issues in My Dream of Martin Luther King

Question Sets for Use After Reading the Story

Night On Neighborhood Street
Author: Eloise Greenfield
Publisher: Rebound by Sagebrush

A collection of poems exploring the sounds, sights, and emotions enlivening a black neighborhood during the course of one evening. Each of Greenfield's poems deals with everyday concerns and delights of African-American city children.

A Review of the Philosophical Issues in Night on Neighborhood Street

Question Sets for Use After Reading the Story

Owl at Home
Author: Arnold Lobel
Publisher: HarperCollins

Owl lives by himself in a warm little house. One evening he invites Winter to sit by the fire. Another time he finds strange bumps in his bedroom. And when Owl goes for a walk one night, he makes a friend that follows him all the way home.

A Review of the Philosophical Issues in Owl and the Moon

Question Sets for Use After Reading Owl and the Moon

The Quiltmaker's Gift
Author: Jeff Brumbeau
Publisher: Scholastic Press

The Quiltmaker spends all of her time making quilts only to give them away. The King meets the Quiltmaker in a search for the one thing that will finally make him happy. When the generous quiltmaker finally agrees to make a quilt for a greedy king but only under certain conditions, she causes him to undergo a change of heart.

A Review of the Philosophical Issues in The Quiltmaker's Gift

Question Sets for Use After Reading the Story

The Rabbit in the Moon
Author: Rosalyn White
Publisher: Dharma Publishing

A generous rabbit gives up his most precious posession for a lost traveler and is lifted to the heavens where his generosity continues to shine for all time.

A Review of the Philosophical Issues in The Rabbit in the Moon

Question Sets for Use After Reading the Story

The Real Thief
Author: William Steig
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux

Gawain the goose is really devoted to King Basil the bear and so he takes his job as Chief Guard of the Royal Treasury seriously. When rubies, then gold ducats, and finally the world-famous Kalikak diamond vanish from the treasure house, there is no way to account for the disappearances. Only Gawain and the King have keys!

A Review of the Philosophical Issues in The Real Thief

Question Sets for Use After Reading the Story

The Shaman's Apprentice
Author: Lynn Cherry and Mark J. Plotkin
Publisher: Voyager Books

For thousands of years, in the jungles of the Amazon, shamans have passed their wisdom of the medicinal values of rain forest plants from one generation to the next. The Shaman's Apprentice tells the story of a Tirio Indian boy who dreams of one day being the tribal shaman, and how he and his people learn the importance of their own knowledge about the healing properties of the rain forest.

A Review of the Philosophical Issues in The Shaman's Apprentice

Question Sets for Use After Reading the Story

Stellaluna
Author: Janell Cannon
Publisher: Chrysalis Books

Stellaluna is a fruit bat, separated from her mother before she can fly. Looked after by birds, she learns about similarities, differences, and the essence of friendship.

A Review of the Philosophical Issues in Stellaluna

Question Sets for Use After Reading the Story

There's a Nightmare In My Closet
Author: Mercer Mayer
Publisher: Dial Books

The young boy in this picture book knows that there is a big, scary nightmare living in his bedroom closet. Each night, before he goes to bed, the boy makes sure that the closet door is shut tight, because if he left it open, the nightmare will emerge to torment him as soon as he turns off the lights. However, one night the boy decides he's tired of cowering under his sheets, and so he sets out to rid his closet of the nightmare once and for all.

A Review of the Philosophical Issues in There's A Nightmare in My Closet

Question Sets for Use After Reading the Story

Tusk Tusk
Author: David Mckee
Publisher: Rebound by Sagebrush

Tusk Tusk is about black and white elephants that wage a war against one another. The peace-loving elephants disappear into the jungle and the other black and white elephants kill each other. For many years there are no elephants in the world, until the grandchildren of the peace-loving elephants emerge from the jungle.

A Review of the Philosophical Issues in Tusk Tusk

Question Sets for Use After Reading the Story

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The Wolves in the Walls
Author: Neil Gaiman
Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books

Lucy is sure there are wolves living in the walls of their house—and, as everybody says, if the wolves come out of the walls, it's all over. Her family doesn't believe her. Then one day, the wolves come out. But it's not all over. Instead, Lucy's battle with the wolves is only just beginning.

A Review of the Philosophical Issues in The Wolves in the Walls

Question Sets for Use After Reading the Story

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Where the Wild Things Are
Author: Maurice Sendak
Publisher: Rayo

Max is being so terrible that his mother sends him to his room without supper. But Max doesn't care -- he sails off to the land of the Wild Things, and they make him his king. There, Max can be as terrible as he pleases, and the Wild Things join in the rumpus. Finally, Max is tired of being wild, and yearns to go home.

A Review of the Philosophical Issues in Where the Wild Things Are

Question Sets for Use After Reading the Story

Who's The Beast?
Author: Keith Baker
Publisher: Voyager Books

Tiger looks into the pond and begins to wonder if he is "the beast" all the jungle animals are afraid of. When the tiger goes back to the jungle animals to find out if he is the beast they see he discovers that he shares some of the same characteristics with each of the other animals.

A Review of the Philosophical Issues in Who's The Beast?

Question Sets for Use After Reading the Story

Yellow and Pink
Author: William Steig
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux

As a yellow and a pink puppet bask in the sun, allowing their paint to dry, they try to determine where they came from. But as soon as they've settled on a solution, a strange man unsettles their theory.

A Review of the Philosophical Issues in Yellow and Pink

Question Sets for Use After Reading the Story