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Daniel Pozmanter

Daniel Pozmanter

Space Case

Author: Edward Marshall  Illustrator: James Marshall

Publishing 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?

Does it 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?

Neither 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?

10. 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

            The 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.