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We're in Big Trouble Blackboard Bear

By Martha Alexander

The Dial Press, New York 1980

ISBN: 0803797419


Discussion Guidelines and Ten Questions

By Kelly Albrecht


            Anthony has a bear named Blackboard Bear. In the story, "We're in Big Trouble Blackboard Bear," Anthony's Bear learns a lesson about stealing and friendship. One night, while Anthony is sleeping, Blackboard Bear sneaks out. The next day, Anthony's friends are missing some things. At first, they think a monster stole from them because of the giant footprints it left. Lessons are learned when Anthony's friends realize that the footprints belong to Blackboard Bear.

            This story raises many issues that are good for discussion. Stealing, lying, and friendship are important issues, not only in this story, but in our lives as well. What is stealing, lying, or friendship? When are they good? When are they not? Are they ever good in combination? Can stealing or lying ever be combined with friendship? Are there ever situations when stealing or lying is okay, or when friendship is not? Using the situations raised by Blackboard Bear, guided discussion can resolve these questions in very beneficial ways.


Questions 1, 2, 3, and 4: the side issues

            Question 1 deals with the issue of Blackboard Bear as an imaginary friend. Many of us have had them, but what is an imaginary friend and how do we know when we have one? Stories about imaginary friends are often humorous and fun to talk about. Is Blackboard Bear imaginary? Well, he climbs in and out of a blackboard, so maybe he is. But Anthony's friends can also interact with Blackboard Bear, so maybe he is real. But it is just a story, so maybe the whole thing is just imaginary. Does it matter?

            Questions 2 and 3 deal with the monster and protection issues in the story. Sometimes we know what a monster is. But, most of the time, we do not. This is part of what makes what we are concerned about monstrous. Having protection from monsters is comforting. But if you don't know anything about the monster, how can you be sure that you are really protected? We can be sure that Anthony and his friends will be protected because the "monster" in this story is, in fact, Blackboard Bear.

            Question 4 touches upon the evidence and alibi issue in the story. Do the boys have enough evidence to say that Blackboard Bear did the stealing? There are other bears that could have done it. According to what Anthony says, Blackboard Bear seems to have a good alibi. How could Blackboard Bear leave footprints if he was in Anthony's room all night? Unless Blackboard Bear confesses, there is not much the police can do. Someone might say that the police could run DNA tests. Would this prove that Blackboard Bear did the stealing? Why?

            Questions 5-10: the central issues

            Many of the questions about stealing can be asked about lying as well, and vice versa. Stealing and lying relate to friendship in interesting ways. The big issue here is trust. If someone steals or lies once, how can you trust them not to do it again? How can you be friends with someone that you cannot trust? Also, is it ever okay to steal or lie? Stealing a gun from a murderer would most likely be seen as okay. Lying to a bully to protect a friend from harm most likely would be seen as okay also. Is stealing or lying right or wrong? Or, does it depend on the situation? Can there be a law against, for example, stealing if it is not wrong all the time?



1.     The story starts with Blackboard Bear climbing off the blackboard. Blackboard Bear is Anthony's friend.

A.   What is an imaginary friend? How is an imaginary friend different from a real friend? Is one better than the other? Why?

B.    Have you ever had an imaginary friend? What was your imaginary friend like? How was your imaginary friend different from a real friend?

C.    Is Blackboard Bear an imaginary friend? What parts of the story would make us think that Blackboard Bear is an imaginary friend? What parts would make us think not?

2.     Anthony's friends are scared. They say, "There's a giant monster on the loose."

A.   What is a monster? Can you think of something that is a monster?

B.    What are some things that make Anthony's friends think that there is a monster on the loose? Why do they think it is a monster and not a bear or a gorilla?

C.    Could there have been two or three monsters instead of one?

D.   Why are Anthony's friends scared of a monster but not of Blackboard Bear?

3.     Anthony tells his friends that Blackboard Bear will "protect us from the monster."

A.   Why do Anthony and his friends think that Blackboard Bear can protect them from the monster?

B.    Can they be sure that they will be protected? What if the monster was as big as a house?

C.    Can we be sure that they will be protected? Why?

D.   How do you feel when you are not protected? How do you feel when you are protected?

4.     Anthony's friends say that the footprints are "like" Blackboard Bear's. Then they say that the footprints "are" Blackboard Bear's.

A.   Can Anthony's friends be sure that the footprints are "like" Blackboard Bear's? How? Can they be sure that the footprints "are" Blackboard Bear's? (Could they be another bear's footprints?)

B.    Is this enough for them to know that Blackboard Bear did the stealing? Anthony says, "[Blackboard Bear] was in my room with me all night," does this make a difference? How?

C.    Based on what Anthony and his friends are saying, could the Police put Blackboard Bear in jail?

D.   Has anyone ever said that you did something when you didn't? What made them think that you did it? What did you do to show them that you didn't do it?

5.     Blackboard Bear stole goldfish, honey and blueberries.

A.   What is stealing? Is stealing like borrowing? How are they different?

B.    Is it better to borrow or to steal? Why? Is it ever OK to steal? How? Why?

C.    Does "paying back" make stealing like borrowing? Does it make it OK? Why?

D.   Is it OK for animals to steal? Why? Did Blackboard Bear steal?

6.     Anthony calls his friends liars.

A.   What is lying? How do you know when someone is lying? Why does Anthony think his friends are lying? Were his friends lying?

B.    If you made a mistake and said something that was not true, did you lie? Why? Was Anthony lying when he said that Blackboard Bear was in his room all night? Why?

7.     Anthony and Blackboard Bear "pay back" the wrong number of fish. Anthony says, "Maybe one had babies."

A.   When Anthony says, "Maybe one had babies," was he lying? Why?

B.    If someone who has always lied to you told you that he doesn't lie anymore, could you believe him? Why? If someone who has lied to you only a few times told that he doesn't lie anymore, could you believe him? Why?

8.     More about lying.

A.   Are some lies bigger than others? How? Is it better to tell a small lie than to tell a big lie? Why? Is it ever OK to lie? How? Why?

B.    If a friend asked you to lie for him to help him, would you do it? Why?

C.    Has someone ever thought you were lying, but you were really telling the truth? How can you get someone to believe you?

9.     Anthony says, "Oh, gosh, we're in trouble."

A.   Can you get in trouble for something that a friend did? How?

B.    Why is Anthony in trouble? Should he be?

C.    Have you ever been in trouble for something your friend did?

10.   Anthony and Blackboard Bear are friends.

A.   How can you tell when someone is your friend? How can you tell when someone is not your friend?

B.    Can you be friends with someone who is not friendly to you? Can you be friends with someone who has lied to you? How?

C.    Has a friend ever lied to you? Are you still friends? Why?