A Gift from Papá Diego
By Benjamin Alire Sáenz, Cinco Puntos Press
A Gift from Papá Diego is about a 6-year old boy named Diego. Diego lives in Texas and wishes desperately to be reunited with his grandfather who lives in Mexico. Diego asks for a Superman costume for his birthday in hopes of being able to fly to Mexico to visit his grandfather. He is disappointed when he realizes the costume does not give him the ability to do this. The story ends with a surprise visit from Diego’s grandfather, and the whole family has a wonderful birthday celebration.
Guidelines for Philosophical Discussion
By Gareth Matthews
There are several philosophical concepts in the book A Gift from Papá Diego that merit exploration. Some of them include: love, reality, disappointment, and patience. The book presents simple messages about love and reality and how these virtues are recognized not just here in American, but also in many other countries as well. The sets of questions are designed to introduce topics through specific examples in the book, and then look at these same concepts in a more abstract way. The idea is to help guide children to more in depth questioning, allowing them to come up with their own conclusions.
The theme of superheroes comes up in the book when Diego dreams about becoming a superhero so that he can have the ability to fly and visit his grandfather in Mexico. The aim of these questions is to get the children thinking about what is real and what is not. What is it that does or does not make someone a superhero? The topic of superheroes allows for a discussion of philosophical issues about what is reality and what is fantasy.
The theme of disappointment comes up in the story a couple of times: first when Diego is told that it is too far for his grandfather to come and visit, and then again when he receives the Superman costume only to find out that he cannot fly. This set of questions was developed to initiate discussions of feelings of disappointment, and to realize that it is not necessarily always a bad thing to experience these feelings when things do not go as one wishes. It also initiates children to think about how others may feel if they let someone down. Disappointment can be hurtful, but at the same time it can also be a valuable experience that we can learn from.
The theme of patience occurs in the story when Diego has to wait all day to open his presents. The excitement and anticipation involved makes it even more difficult for Diego. Patience can be a difficult concept for children to understand. It is not something that we always have, nor should we. It is there sometimes and not others. Why would that be? For instance we would not want to exercise patience if someone were seriously hurt and need to receive medical attention immediately. However, we may want to work on being more patient when it comes to issues that do not require urgent reactions. Sometimes the experience of being patient and having to wait can be more fulfilling than the actual experience itself. It forces us to recognize the anticipation.
Diego daydreams about having the ability to fly and going to visit his grandfather. Daydreams can be very powerful. They can provide ways for children to escape, to sort things out, to try out new ideas or identities. Daydreams help to provide a link between truth and reality, what can be and what may never be. Can a daydream be real, or do the events in a daydream actually have to occur in order for it to be real?
The theme of love is exemplified in the story when Diego talks about missing his grandfather, when his sister Gabriela tells her parents why Diego wants the costume, and when his parents bring the grandfather to Texas for a visit. The aim of these questions is to get children thinking about love and the many different ways we view love. Is it a feeling, emotion, action, thought? How can love mean so many different things?
Questions for Philosophical Discussion
By Nancy Soudant
Diego wants a Superman costume for his birthday so he can fly to see his grandfather.
Diego is disappointed to find that he can not fly to see his grandfather when he puts the Superman costume on.
Diego has to wait all day to open his presents.
Diego very much wants to go and visit his grandfather.
Diego loves his grandfather very much.