Edward Marshall Illustrator: James
Info: New York : Dial Press, c1980
1. The thing comes down to "meet the
natives, who were not especially friendly". What does it mean to be friendly?
2. The thing seems upset when the
jack-o-lantern isn't friendly (and doesn't even acknowledge it). Should one expect a friendly "hello",
or any reaction at all, from something which is not alive? How do you know whether something is
alive or not?
have to have a face? Be orange or
round or soft? Have light coming
out of its eyes? Is the thing from
outer space alive? How do we
know? Does one have to be alive to
talk? If something can talk, does
that mean it can think, or day-dream, or imagine a giant yellow cat?
3. Buddy and his friends see some people
dressed in some spooky costumes.
How can you tell the difference between a really good costume, and someone's real face or body? Can you? When people dress up like monsters, how do you know they are
still people, and not really monsters?
4. At first, the thing was "beginning to
lose heart", but soon, after a bit of trick-or-treating, "the thing was having
a fine time". What does it mean to
have a good time? Have
you ever been doing something, and it became fun after a while? Does practicing for a sport or a play
become fun? Was it always
fun? What changed? What is fun? How can some activity be more fun than another
activity? Can an activity sound
fun, but not actually be fun once you try it? How can something sound like fun?
5. The kids notice something odd
about the thing. Lily says
"There's something weird about that new kid". What does weird mean?
Can anyone think of something that is weird? Does everyone agree that it is weird? Can a person be weird, or does a person
just do weird things? If someone
was exercising by doing situps, and you had never seen situps before, would
that be weird? Would the person
exercising agree it was weird?
What about if the person was doing situps in a gym? In the middle of the road? On a plane?
6. Is Mr. McGee awake when he lets Buddy
and the thing in for the night?
Does he look awake? Can you
look asleep when you are awake?
Can you look awake when you are asleep? Is there something in between being awake and being
asleep? What is it?
7. Mrs. McGee doesn't really take Buddy
seriously when he says the thing is from outer space. Why? Do you
think she stopped being curious about "what on earth" the thing is?
parent seems to really see the thing from outer space for what it really
is. Would your parents? Why shouldn't the parents believe the
thing from outer space is really from outer space? Would you believe if you were one of Buddy's parents? Can you think of something you've seen
many times, only to one day find out it is something completely different? Did the thing change? How?
8. The thing has some opinions about the
space projects the other kids did.
What does it mean for something to be primitive? Do you think the kid doing the project
thought her project was primitive?
Is something itself primitive, or
must someone think it is
primitive? If something is
primitive, does that alone make it good or bad? Do some words seem to say something is good or bad if you
use them? Should they say
that? How do words say two things
at once? How many things does the
word "bar" mean?
9. The thing from outer space does "some
fancy mathematics". Mr. Jones
awards Buddy an A minus. How do
you measure how much something is worth?
Does everyone always agree on something's worth?
The thing says Christmas is only "two zyglots away". Do you know what it is talking
about? How? Could a zyglot be a month? If someone talks to you using words
that are fake, or from another language, can you understand them? How? How can you figure out a new word
when you learn it? Does how it is
used help? Does the sound of it?
Guidelines For Discussion
questions I have written are to be taken as suggestions. These provide possible ways of
stimulating discussion pertaining to the various philosophical themes and
problems presented in the three books ("Space Case", "Why Do You Call Me
Chocolate Boy?", and "Wild Girl & Gran"). Given this, if I were to offer any advice on using these
questions, I would say be prepared to drop them and any planned topics you have
in order to follow the natural flow of discussion. While the ideas presented in these books are important, they
are not nearly so important as the cognitive skills being developed by
philosophical debate. If a
discussion on how one would be able to tell if someone was alive or not becomes
a discussion on whether or not anything can really last forever, then just go
with that discussion. Beyond that
mild suggestion I cannot offer any other guidelines than the questions I have
provided, and the obvious proposal that you read these three wonderful books.