We're in Big Trouble
By Martha Alexander
The Dial Press, New York
and Ten Questions
By Kelly Albrecht
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.
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.
1, 2, 3, and 4: the side issues
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?
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
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?
5-10: the central issues
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?
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?
you ever had an imaginary friend? What was your imaginary friend like? How was
your imaginary friend different from a real friend?
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
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?
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?
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?
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
they be sure that they will be protected? What if the monster was as big as a
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?
friends say that the footprints are "like" Blackboard Bear's. Then they say
that the footprints "are" Blackboard Bear's.
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?)
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
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?
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?
"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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
someone ever thought you were lying, but you were really telling the truth? How
can you get someone to believe you?
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?
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
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?