The Gift of Nothing
By Patrick McDonnell, Little, Brown
Mooch the cat desperately wants to find a gift for his friend Earl the dog, but Earl already has everything. "What do you give a guy who has everything?" Mooch wonders. The answer, of course, is nothing! This simple story features characters from Patrick McDonnell's popular comic strip, Mutts, and has the same depth, charm, and heart that he gives to his daily readers.
Guidelines for Philosophical Discussion
By Courtney Cioffredi and Tom Wartenberg
The Gift of Nothing illustrates just how puzzling the notion of nothing can be to both the philosopher and the layperson. After all, if nothing does not exist, how can we meaningfully talk about it? Doesn't nothing have to be a something in order for us to think about it? What does it mean when we say, "Oh, that's nothing to worry about?" In the book, [A] decides that nothing is just what [B] needs. How can this be?!
Philosophers have puzzled a great deal over what the concept of nothing means. Some have argued that it is not a real concept at all. Thus, we really should revise our ordinary ways of speaking to avoid the apparent paradoxes involved in talking about nothing. Others have asserted that we need to admit odd realms of existence in which nothing can actually be something. Clearly, this is a difficult notion to fully comprehend.
In discussing this book, it is helpful to stress the pleasure of thinking about the paradoxes surrounding the notion of nothing. Although this is a topic for serious philosophical discussion, it also involves brain-teasers that children can enjoy thinking about. Keeping this in mind can help make the discussion of this book really fun!
The Gift of Nothing also explores the meaning of friendship and the meaning of gifts. Questions can be posed as to what a friend is and what a gift is. Such questions can be used to get children to explore the idea that things might not be what actually make them happy. Perhaps it is the people and their relationships with them that really make them happy. It is, therefore, helpful to encourage children to think about holidays and birthdays and why we give gifts on such occasions. Is it to show that we care about the person and that we are happy to be with them? If so, is the gift truly important or could the real gift be spending time with them?
Questions for Philosophical Discussion
By Courtney Cioffredi
The meaning of nothing
"But in a world filled with so many somethings, where could he find nothing?"