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The Tales of Amanda Pig

The Tales of Amanda Pig

By Jean Van Leeuwen

For ages 4-8

Published in 1983 by Dial Books for Young Readers

Discussion Guidelines and Ten Questions for two stories in the book ("The Monster" and "Sleeping Time")

By Liz Eleftherakis


This book is the story of little Amanda Pig and her life as the youngest in her family.  The book has five short stories, each of which depict different interactions Amanda has with her mother, father, and brother, Oliver.  The two stories discussed here are, "The Monster" and "Sleeping Time".  The monster is about Amanda and here father scarring off the clock that turns into a monster when it is dark.  "Sleeping Time" is about Amanda trading roles with her mother and putting her mother to bed, instead of the other way around.  Both stories bring up philosophical issues concerning reality, what happens in the dark, and role-playing.


"The Monster"

Everyone, at some point, was afraid of the dark.  When things are not visible they become mysterious and unidentifiable (even ordinary things that we would never fear in the day time).  The first question deals with why children tend to be afraid of the dark while adults do not.  If a child were to see a monster why would they not see it when they get older?  This question should make the students think about whether monsters go away when we get older or do we just realize that they were never there to begin with.

Question two deals with why the dark, specifically, makes things scary.  Does the dark actually turn objects into monsters?  This makes the students question what the dark actually does to things and why.  Also, even if the dark actually did turn objects into monsters, how could that be possible?  Is it possible to turn nonliving objects into living objects?

Once again, darkness is discussed in question three, but this question deals more with not being able to see.  This is meant to evoke ideas of the scariness of not being able to see, as opposed to "darkness" itself.  In other words, focusing on sightlessness instead of darkness.  There can be a discussion of ways in which we try to limit the amount of sightlessness during the night (for example, night lights).

Question four deals with why Amanda's father had the idea of scarring the monster.  If he didn't believe that the monster was really there, then why did he go to so much trouble to try to scare it?  This question is meant to engage the students in a discussion of how Amanda's father was trying to help Amanda NOT be scared, instead of trying to scare the monster.

Question five is meant to question why the dark is different from the light and if they really different at all.  For example, do things actually change in the dark or just how we see (or don't see) them?


"Sleeping Time"

In Question one, it first introduces the idea of being tired and sleeping by asking simple, direct questions (for example, do you ever have to go to bed when you are not tired?).  It then asks how someone would be able to fall asleep if they were not tired when they went to bed.  Other topics can be discussed such as, what sorts of things can make you tired? Or, (going in a different direction) how do you know when you fall asleep?

Since I think dreaming is a great philosophical topic I decided to add a question about it, even though dreaming is not discussed in the story.  This question should draw some very interesting answers from the students.  It begs the question, how do we know we are not all dreaming now?  A good question to lead into that would be to ask the class if they ever have a dream that they thought was real.  If that has happened, how do they know that it is not happening right now? 

Question three discusses the roles that people take on (Amanda is a child, girl, and daughter while her mother is a grownup, woman, and mother).  Why would it seem funny for a child to put his or her parents to bed?  This is supposed to lead to a discussion on how parents and children are different. 

Question four deals with role-playing.  Even though Amanda is the daughter she can pretend to be the mother.  It also asks why Amanda's mother lets Amanda pretend to be the mother.  Did she know it would make Amanda want to go to bed?

Lastly, question five asks about pretending and why we like to pretend to be other people.  It also asks about the different ways in which we go about pretending.


The Questions for "The Monster"

1. Amanda doesn't want to go upstairs because there is a monster.

A.   What is a monster?  How do you know when you see one?

B.    Why does it seem that some kids see monsters but most adults don't?

C.    Why does Amanda believe in monsters and her brother, Oliver does not?


2. Amanda says that the monster is a clock in the daytime.

A.   Why does the dark turn the clock into a monster?  Does it really turn into a monster or does it just look like one?

B.    How could something not living (like a clock) turn into a monster?

C.    Does the monster turn into a clock in the daytime or does the clock turn into a monster in the nighttime?  How do you know?


3. (Continuation of Question 2)

A.   Why are things scarier when you can't see them?

B.    Are you more likely to see a monster in the daytime or nighttime?  Why?


4. Amanda and her father try to scare the monster with a flashlight, cooking pot, Halloween masks, and umbrella.

A.   If the monster was real, do you think that those things would scare him or her?

B.    What do you think Amanda's father was trying to do?


5. When Amanda's father shines the light on the clock it does not look like a monster anymore.

A.   Did the dark actually change the clock into a monster?

B.    How is the dark different from the light?


The Questions for "Sleeping Time"

1. Amanda's mother is putting her to bed, but Amanda says that she is not tired.

A.   Are you ever not tired when your parents put you to bed?

B.    Why do you think that your parents make you go to bed even when you're not tired?

C.    How do you fall asleep when you're not tired?  How do ou know when you fall asleep?


2. (Continuation of Question 2)

A.   Do you always dream when you sleep?

B.    How do you when you dream?

C.    How do you know that you're not dreaming right now?  How do you know you're awake if sometimes you think you're awake but you are really dreaming?


3. Amanda puts her mother "to bed".

A.   Why does Amanda's mom put her to bed?  Why does it seem weird to have Amanda put her mom to bed?

B.    Are parents supposed to put their children to bed? 

C.    What other kinds of things do parents do?  What kinds of things do kids do? 


4. Amanda says, "I think my little girl is asleep".

A.   Why does she say that?  Is her mom really her "little girl"?

B.    Is Amanda pretending to be her mother?  If her mother wasn't pretending to be the child, do you think that Amanda would want to pretend the mother?  Could she pretend to be a mother without having a child to mother?


5. (Continuation of question 4)

A.   Have you ever pretended to be someone else?

B.    Who do you like to pretend to be?  How do you do that?